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Kraemer KL, Althouse AD, Salay M, et al. JAMA Health Forum. 2022;3:e222263.
Nudges (e.g., default order sets) in the electronic health record (EHR) have been shown to encourage safer prescribing of opioids in emergency departments. This study evaluated the effect of nudges to reduce opioid prescribing for opioid-naïve patients with acute pain. Primary care practices were cluster randomized to control, opioid justification in the EHR, peer comparison, or combined opioid justification and peer comparison groups. The three intervention groups showed reduced opioid prescribing compared to control.
Villa Zapata L, Subbian V, Boyce RD, et al. Stud Health Technol Inform. 2022;290:380-384.
Computerized decision support systems can alert clinicians to drug-drug interactions (DDIs), but the alert fatigue contributes to alert overrides. This scoping review includes 34 studies from the United States and international settings and identified a high prevalence of DDI alert overrides. The authors discuss the need for improved decision support systems to improve DDI alerts and actionable metrics to measure harms associated with alert overrides.
Chua K-P, Brummett CM, Conti RM, et al. Pediatrics. 2021;148:e2021051539.
Despite public policies and guidelines to reduce opioid prescribing, providers continue to overprescribe these medications to children, adolescents, and young adults. In this analysis of US retail pharmacy data, 3.5% of US children and young adults were dispensed at least one opioid prescription; nearly half of those included at least one factor indicating they were high risk. Consistent with prior research, dentists and surgeons were the most frequent prescribers, writing 61% of all opiate prescriptions.

A 4-year-old (former 33-week premature) boy with a complex medical history including gastroschisis and subsequent volvulus in infancy resulting in short bowel syndrome, central venous catheter placement, and home parenteral nutrition (PN) dependence was admitted with hyponatremia. A pharmacist from the home infusion pharmacy notified the physician that an error in home PN mixing had been identified; a new file had been created for this chronic PN patient by the home infusion pharmacy and the PN formula in this file was transcribed erroneously without sodium acetate.

Cerqueira O, Gill M, Swar B, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2021;30:1038-1046.
Computerized prescriber order entry (CPOE) systems embedded in electronic health systems alert clinicians to potential safety concerns such as drug-drug interactions or medication dosage errors. Results of this review indicate that alerts influenced prescriber behavior in most of the included studies. However, it is unclear whether these behavioral changes improve patient safety outcomes. Recommendations for future research include randomized controlled trials to determine which alerts maximize patient safety, while minimizing prescribers’ alert fatigue.
Srinivasamurthy SK, Ashokkumar R, Kodidela S, et al. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2021;77:1123-1131.
Computerized prescriber (or physician) order entry (CPOE) systems are widely used in healthcare and studies have shown a reduction in medication errors with CPOE. This study focused on whether CPOE systems improved the incidence of chemotherapy-related medication errors. The study included 11 studies in the review but only 8 studies were in the meta-analysis. The authors found that the use of CPOE was associated with an 81% reduction in chemotherapy-related medication errors, indicating that CPOE is a valuable strategy for this patient population.
Co Z, Holmgren AJ, Classen DC, et al. Appl Clin Inform. 2021;12:153-163.
Medication errors occur frequently in ambulatory care settings. This article describes the development and testing of an ambulatory medication safety evaluation tool, which is based on an inpatient version administered by The Leapfrog Group. Pilot testing at seven clinics around the US indicates that clinics struggled in areas of advanced decision support such as drug age and drug monitoring, and that most clinics lacked EHR-based medication reconciliation functions.
Delvaux N, Piessens V, Burghgraeve TD, et al. Implement Sci. 2020;15:100.
Clinical decision support systems (CDSS) and computerized physician order entry (CPOE) have the potential to improve patient safety. This randomized trial evaluated the impact of integrating CDSS into CPOE among general practitioners in Belgium. The intervention improved appropriateness and decreased volume of laboratory test ordering and did not show any increases in diagnostic errors.
Powell L, Sittig DF, Chrouser K, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3:e206752-e.
Using root cause analysis data submitted to the Veterans Affairs (VA) National Center for Patient Safety from 2013 to 2018, this study analyzed health information technology (HIT)-related outpatient diagnostic delays to identify common safety concerns. The study identified five high-risk areas for diagnostic delays involving HIT: managing electronic health record inbox notifications and communications, clinicians gathering key diagnostic information, technical problems, data entry problems, and failure of a system to track test results.
Following resection of colorectal cancer, a hospitalized elderly man experienced a pulmonary embolism, which was treated with rivaroxaban. Upon discharge home, he received two separate prescriptions for rivaroxaban (per protocol): one for 15 mg twice daily for 10 days, and then 20 mg daily after that. Ten days later, the patient's wife returned to the pharmacy requesting a refill. On re-reviewing the medications with her, the pharmacist discovered the patient had been taking both prescriptions (a total daily dose of 50 mg daily).
Computerized provider order entry systems ensure standardized, legible, and complete orders, and—especially when paired with decision support systems—have the potential to sharply reduce medication prescribing errors.
Salazar A; Karmiy SJ; Forsythe KJ; Amato MG; Wright A; Lai KH; Lambert BL; Liebovitz DM; Eguale T; Volk LA; Schiff GD.
Medication errors occur frequently in the outpatient setting and can lead to patient harm. A common scenario is one in which a patient is prescribed multiple medications, does not know what each one is for, and takes them incorrectly. Medication safety experts have advocated that prescribers include indications on prescription labels to enable patients and pharmacists to check the bottle in order to remember a medication's purpose. Investigators examined more than 4 million outpatient prescriptions from a single institution and found that only 7.4% of prescriptions included an indication. Medications for symptoms like pain, nausea, and anxiety were much more likely to have indications than medications for chronic diseases. Internal medicine physicians, whose patients are more likely to take multiple medications, wrote indications 6% of the time. A PSNet perspective explored how community pharmacists can use medication indications and other tools to ameliorate medication-related harm.
Adelman JS, Applebaum JR, Schechter CB, et al. JAMA. 2019;321:1780-1787.
Having multiple patient records open in the electronic health record increases the potential risk of wrong-patient actions. This randomized trial tested two different electronic health record configurations: one allowed up to four patient records to be open at a time, and the other allowed only one to be open. Among the 3356 clinicians with nearly 4.5 million order sessions, there were no significant differences in wrong-patient orders. However, the investigators noted that clinicians in the multiple records group placed most orders with just one record open. A post hoc analysis determined that the rate of errors increased when orders were placed with multiple records open. A related editorial highlights the tradeoffs between safety and efficiency and argues for examining the context of the two configurations, including throughput and clinician satisfaction. A previous PSNet perspective discussed assessing and improving the safety of electronic health records.
Yang Y, Ward-Charlerie S, Kashyap N, et al. J Am Med Info Asso. 2018;25:1516-1523.
Many ambulatory electronic health records cannot communicate to pharmacies that medications should be discontinued. In a nationally representative sample, nearly 1% of new prescriptions had discontinuation instructions for other prescriptions embedded within them, a workaround that creates inefficiencies and new safety hazards. A recent interview with Michael Cohen, President of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, discussed this and other safety concerns that community pharmacies face.
Yang Y, Ward-Charlerie S, Dhavle AA, et al. J Manag Care Spec Pharm. 2018;24:691-699.
Electronic prescribing has yielded unequivocal improvement in outpatient medication safety. However, electronic health record prescribing infrastructure differs substantially, which creates safety hazards when prescribers transmit information to pharmacies. Researchers examined 25,000 prescriptions sent to a retail pharmacy chain and described variation in the Sig line—prescriber instructions for how a patient should use a medication. The 501 separate electronic prescribing systems generated 832 different ways to communicate the simple instruction: "Take 1 tablet by mouth daily." About 10% of prescriptions posed a potential safety hazard. An AHRQ tool provides standard language to clarify directions for patients regarding how to take their medications. A previous WebM&M commentary discussed strategies for pharmacies, clinics, and providers to mitigate the risk of patient confusion.
Ai A, Wong A, Amato MG, et al. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2018;25:709-714.
Electronic prescribing is a pillar of patient safety, but computerized provider order entry may also introduce errors. This study examined the extent to which prescribers erroneously entered free text into electronic medication orders to communicate to pharmacists about medication. More than 10% of medication orders exhibited a communication failure between prescriber and pharmacist. Investigators also found that 38% of these communication failures conferred a risk for significant or severe harm to patients. This study demonstrates the need to facilitate communication between prescribers and pharmacists within the electronic ordering process to prevent adverse medication events. A past WebM&M commentary discussed strategies to reduce errors associated with electronic prescribing.
Rizk S, Oguntebi G, Graber ML, Johnston D. Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI International; 2016.
Standard term selection tools—like pick lists or drop-down menus—in information technology can create opportunities for user error due to human factors. This publication explores how mistakes such as selecting the wrong drug from an ordering pick list can occur in the ambulatory environment. The report includes recommendations and resources to help enhance medication safety when using these tools.
Battis B, Clifford L, Huq M, et al. J Oncol Pract. 2017;23:582-590.
Oral chemotherapy regimens are complex and may lead to severe adverse drug events. In this pilot study, nearly half of patients enrolled in a pharmacist-run oral chemotherapy monitoring clinic experienced a medication-related problem. This finding is consistent with prior studies that demonstrated pharmacist oversight improves safety of oral chemotherapy.
Overhage JM, Gandhi TK, Hope C, et al. J Patient Saf. 2016;12:69-74.
Adverse drug events (ADEs) are a common source of patient harm in the ambulatory setting. A substantial proportion of ADEs are caused by preventable errors in medication prescribing or monitoring. The introduction of computerized provider order entry (CPOE) has been shown to reduce the rate of medical errors in the inpatient setting. This before–after study examined rates of ADEs in primary care practices that implemented a CPOE system in Boston and Indianapolis. At baseline, the potential ADE rate was more than seven-fold greater in Indianapolis compared to Boston. Following CPOE implementation, this rate decreased by 56% in Indianapolis but increased by 104% in Boston, and there was no change overall in preventable ADEs. A recent PSNet annual perspective reviewed the relationship and current evidence linking CPOE and patient safety.