A study conducted at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, CA, suggests that the implementation of an electronic prescription system lead to a 20 percent drop in the mortality rate since 2007. The computerized physician order entry (CPOE) system is credited with the reduction because it has cut in half the time it takes for pharmacists to fill orders. Without having to decipher handwriting and make follow up calls, pharmacists and physicians report that they have even been able to reduce the number of some procedures, such as blood transfusions, for patients in or just out of surgery.
While the children’s hospital did see a reduction in the number of deaths, critics suggest that it is difficult to know how much of the drop can be attributed to the system. Previous studies have seen no change from CPOE systems and a couple of similar studies have actually reported an increase in patient deaths.
The author of the study notes that there is still much work to be done to make a definitive response about the function of these types of systems. He suggests that the hospital’s detailed, and very expensive, implementation of the system is likely to account for its success in this location. While the use of the computerized entry system may be costly, the potential that it could reduce mortality rates at other hospitals makes further studies worthwhile.