Electronic prescribing improves medication safety in community-based office practices

J Gen Intern Med. 2010 Jun;25(6):530-6. doi: 10.1007/s11606-009-1238-8. Epub 2010 Feb 26.


Background: Although electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) holds promise for preventing prescription errors in the ambulatory setting, research on its effectiveness is inconclusive.

Objective: To assess the impact of a stand-alone e-prescribing system on the rates and types of ambulatory prescribing errors.

Design, participants: Prospective, non-randomized study using pre-post design of 15 providers who adopted e-prescribing with concurrent controls of 15 paper-based providers from September 2005 through June 2007.

Intervention: Use of a commercial, stand-alone e-prescribing system with clinical decision support including dosing recommendations and checks for drug-allergy interactions, drug-drug interactions, and duplicate therapies.

Main measures: Prescribing errors were identified by a standardized prescription and chart review.

Key results: We analyzed 3684 paper-based prescriptions at baseline and 3848 paper-based and electronic prescriptions at one year of follow-up. For e-prescribing adopters, error rates decreased nearly sevenfold, from 42.5 per 100 prescriptions (95% confidence interval (CI), 36.7-49.3) at baseline to 6.6 per 100 prescriptions (95% CI, 5.1-8.3) one year after adoption (p < 0.001). For non-adopters, error rates remained high at 37.3 per 100 prescriptions (95% CI, 27.6-50.2) at baseline and 38.4 per 100 prescriptions (95% CI, 27.4-53.9) at one year (p = 0.54). At one year, the error rate for e-prescribing adopters was significantly lower than for non-adopters (p < 0.001). Illegibility errors were very high at baseline and were completely eliminated by e-prescribing (87.6 per 100 prescriptions at baseline for e-prescribing adopters, 0 at one year).

Conclusions: Prescribing errors may occur much more frequently in community-based practices than previously reported. Our preliminary findings suggest that stand-alone e-prescribing with clinical decision support may significantly improve ambulatory medication safety.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov, Taconic Health Information Network and Community (THINC), NCT00225563, http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00225563?term=Kaushal&rank=6 .

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Community Health Services
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Electronic Prescribing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control*
  • Medication Errors / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • New York
  • Physicians' Offices
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rural Population
  • Safety
  • Safety Management
  • Suburban Population

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00225563