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PSNet: Patient Safety Network
Journal Article

Impact of computerized physician order entry alerts on prescribing in older patients.

Lester PE, Rios-Rojas L, Islam S, et al. Drugs & aging. 2015;32:227-33.

Older patients are particularly vulnerable to medication errors, with certain high-risk medications accounting for a large proportion of adverse drug events in these patients. This study evaluated the effect of warnings within a computerized provider order entry (CPOE) system targeting prescribing of unsafe medications to patients aged 65 years and older. The warnings resulted in a significant decrease in prescribing of two of the three medications targeted over a 3-year period. The authors note that there were readily available, safer alternatives for those medications, but not for the drug which continued to be prescribed. Also, prescription rates of all three medications were unchanged in younger patients, indicating that the tailored nature of the alerts played a role in their effectiveness. While clinical decision support within CPOE does have some effect on safe prescribing, the use of computerized warnings of this type must be balanced against the very real possibility that alert fatigue may develop as a result.