Impact of Computerized Physician Order Entry on Medication Prescription Errors in the Intensive Care Unit: A Controlled Cross-Sectional Trial

Crit Care. 2006 Feb;10(1):R21. doi: 10.1186/cc3983.


Introduction: Medication errors in the intensive care unit (ICU) are frequent and lead to attributable patient morbidity and mortality, increased length of ICU stay and substantial extra costs. We investigated if the introduction of a computerized ICU system (Centricity Critical Care Clinisoft, GE Healthcare) reduced the incidence and severity of medication prescription errors (MPEs).

Methods: A prospective trial was conducted in a paper-based unit (PB-U) versus a computerized unit (C-U) in a 22-bed ICU of a tertiary university hospital. Every medication order and medication prescription error was validated by a clinical pharmacist. The registration of different classes of MPE was done according to the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention guidelines. An independent panel evaluated the severity of MPEs. We identified three groups: minor MPEs (no potential to cause harm); intercepted MPEs (potential to cause harm but intercepted on time); and serious MPEs (non-intercepted potential adverse drug events (ADE) or ADEs, being MPEs with potential to cause, or actually causing, patient harm).

Results: The C-U and the PB-U each contained 80 patient-days, and a total of 2,510 medication prescriptions were evaluated. The clinical pharmacist identified 375 MPEs. The incidence of MPEs was significantly lower in the C-U compared with the PB-U (44/1286 (3.4%) versus 331/1224 (27.0%); P < 0.001). There were significantly less minor MPEs in the C-U than in the PB-U (9 versus 225; P < 0.001). Intercepted MPEs were also lower in the C-U (12 versus 46; P < 0.001), as well as the non-intercepted potential ADEs (21 versus 48; P < 0.001). There was also a reduction of ADEs (2 in the C-U versus 12 in the PB-U; P < 0.01). No fatal errors occurred. The most frequent drug classes involved were cardiovascular medication and antibiotics in both groups. Patients with renal failure experienced less dosing errors in the C-U versus the PB-U (12 versus 35 serious MPEs; P < 0.001).

Conclusion: The ICU computerization, including the medication order entry, resulted in a significant decrease in the occurrence and severity of medication errors in the ICU.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Medical Records Systems, Computerized
  • Medication Errors* / adverse effects
  • Medication Systems, Hospital*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies