Evaluating Health Information Technology’s Clinical Effects
In 2009 the federal government appropriated $34 billion in stimulus-related funding to promote the “meaningful use” of health information technology among Medicare and Medicaid providers and hospitals. One of the key elements of this technology is the adoption of computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems for inpatient drug prescribing. The potential for CPOE to improve prescribing patterns and prevent adverse events is large, and as yet, unrealized. Amidst enthusiasm for the benefits of CPOE, providers and policymakers are becoming aware that CPOE could introduce new errors into the system and cannot simply be assumed to “work.” This Issue Brief reports on the experience of one hospital system that used its CPOE to reduce the incidence of a serious drug interaction. This rigorous test of a specific CPOE intervention shows that an electronic alert system can be effective in changing prescribing, but may also have unintended consequences for patient safety.