Computerized physician order entry in the critical care environment: a review of current literature

J Intensive Care Med. May-Jun 2011;26(3):165-71. doi: 10.1177/0885066610387984. Epub 2011 Jan 21.


The implementation of health information technology (HIT) is accelerating, driven in part by a growing interest in computerized physician order entry (CPOE) as a tool for improving the quality and safety of patient care. Computerized physician order entry could have a substantial impact on patients in intensive care, where the potential for medical error is high, and the clinical workflow is complex. In 2009, only 17% of hospitals had functional CPOE systems in place. In intensive care unit (ICU) settings, CPOE has been shown to reduce the occurrence of some medication errors, but evidence of a beneficial effect on clinical outcomes remains limited. In some cases, new error types have arisen with the use of CPOE. Intensive care unit workflow and staff relationships have been affected by CPOE, often in unanticipated ways. The design of CPOE software has a strong impact on user acceptance. Intensive care unit-specific order sets lessen the cognitive workload associated with the use of CPOE and improve user acceptance. The diffusion of new technological innovations in the ICU can have unintended consequences, including changes in workflow, staff roles, and patient outcomes. When implementing CPOE in critical care areas, both organizational and technical factors should be considered. Further research is needed to inform the design and management of CPOE systems in the ICU and to better assess their impact on clinical end points, cost-effectiveness, and user satisfaction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Critical Care / methods*
  • Critical Care / organization & administration
  • Diffusion of Innovation*
  • Humans
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control*
  • Medical Order Entry Systems / organization & administration*
  • United States
  • Workflow*