Impact of errors in paper-based and computerized diabetes management with decision support for hospitalized patients with type 2 diabetes. A post-hoc analysis of a before and after study

Int J Med Inform. 2016 Jun:90:58-67. doi: 10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2016.03.007. Epub 2016 Mar 23.


Objective: Most preventable adverse drug events and medication errors occur during medication ordering. Medication order entry and clinical decision support are available on paper or as computerized systems. In this post-hoc analysis we investigated frequency and clinical impact of blood glucose (BG) documentation- and user-related calculation errors as well as workflow deviations in diabetes management. We aimed to compare a paper-based protocol to a computerized medication management system combined with clinical workflow and decision support.

Methods: Seventy-nine hospitalized patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus were treated with an algorithm driven basal-bolus insulin regimen. BG measurements, which were the basis for insulin dose calculations, were manually entered either into the paper-based workflow protocol (PaperG: 37 patients) or into GlucoTab(®)-a mobile tablet PC based system (CompG: 42 patients). We used BG values from the laboratory information system as a reference. A workflow simulator was used to determine user calculation errors as well as workflow deviations and to estimate the effect of errors on insulin doses. The clinical impact of insulin dosing errors and workflow deviations on hypo- and hyperglycemia was investigated.

Results: The BG documentation error rate was similar for PaperG (4.9%) and CompG group (4.0%). In PaperG group, 11.1% of manual insulin dose calculations were erroneous and the odds ratio (OR) of a hypoglycemic event following an insulin dosing error was 3.1 (95% CI: 1.4-6.8). The number of BG values influenced by insulin dosing errors was eightfold higher than in the CompG group. In the CompG group, workflow deviations occurred in 5.0% of the tasks which led to an increased likelihood of hyperglycemia, OR 2.2 (95% CI: 1.1-4.6).

Discussion: Manual insulin dose calculations were the major source of error and had a particularly strong influence on hypoglycemia. By using GlucoTab(®), user calculation errors were entirely excluded. The immediate availability and automated handling of BG values from medical devices directly at the point of care has a high potential to reduce errors. Computerized systems facilitate the safe use of more complex insulin dosing algorithms without compromising usability. In CompG group, missed or delayed tasks had a significant effect on hyperglycemia, while in PaperG group insufficient precision of documentation times limited analysis. The use of old BG measurements was clinically less relevant.

Conclusion: Insulin dosing errors and workflow deviations led to measurable changes in clinical outcome. Diabetes management systems including decision support should address nurses as well as physicians in a computerized way. Our analysis shows that such systems reduce the frequency of errors and therefore decrease the probability of hypo- and hyperglycemia.

Trial registration: NCT01407289 NCT01932775.

Keywords: Basal-bolus insulin therapy; Best practice; Clinical decision support; Medication errors; Medication management system; Medication order entry; Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Documentation / methods*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / administration & dosage
  • Medical Errors*
  • Paper


  • Insulin

Associated data