Using information technology to reduce rates of medication errors in hospitals


David W Bates, chief.

Data continue to show that medication errors are frequent and that adverse drug events, or injuries due to drugs, occur more often than necessary. In fact, the frequency and consequences of iatrogenic injuries seems to dwarf the frequency of other types of injuries that have received more public attention, such as aeroplane and automobile crashes. A recent meta-analysis reported an overall incidence of 6.7% for serious adverse drug reactions (a term that excludes events associated with errors) in hospitals.4 Between 28% and 56% of adverse drug events are preventable.

Though the reasons this issue has received so little attention are complex, the reasons that medical injuries occur with some frequency are perhaps less so; medicine is more or less a cottage industry, with little standardisation and relatively few safeguards in comparison to, say, manufacturing. In fact, most of the systems in place in medicine were never formally designed, and this…

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