Leapfrog: CPOE catches 52% of errors, but challenges remain

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As U.S. hospitals rush to adopt new health IT systems, such as computerized medication ordering, the potential for these advances to inadvertently result in harm to patients remains a major challenge for hospitals and technology companies, according to market research firm, Leapfrog Group.

Two years ago, 214 hospitals used Leapfrog's web-based simulation tool to test the capability of its computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems to catch common medication errors, including errors that could lead to fatalities. The hospitals found their systems on average missed 52 percent of the routine medication orders and 32.8 percent of the potentially fatal orders. Nearly all of the hospitals improved their performance after adjusting their systems and protocols and running the simulation a second time.

In a similar test conducted April through December 2011 by 253 hospitals, the missed routine medication orders dropped to 36.6 percent and the fatal orders plummeted to 1.1 percent, the Washington, D.C.-based researcher found.

"This is the kind of improvement that shows what persistent monitoring and adjustment of these systems can achieve, and the hospitals that participate in the Leapfrog Hospital Survey and took the test deserve real credit," said Leah Binder, CEO of the Leapfrog Group. "But hospitals and technology companies haven't finished the job. When CPOE is implemented the right way and hospitals and vendors follow up to monitor and improve it, the result is what every patient hopes for when their life is at stake: the perfect harmony of caregiver and technology working for them."

The hospitals that took the test are voluntary respondents to the Leapfrog Hospital Survey, a patient safety survey that measures and publicly reports on how well patients fare, resources used to care for patients and management practices that promote safety. The hospitals that participate in the Leapfrog Hospital Survey are considered among the most advanced in the country in their use of information systems.