Improving Patient Safety Through e-Prescribing

As the largest independent medical group in Washington State, Everett Clinic’s providers issue 2.7 million prescriptions a year. Electronic prescribing, or e-prescribing, provides real-time information about a patient’s current prescriptions and medication history.

The Clinic has implemented e-prescribing in all facilities. The system features electronic entry of medications and orders, an extensive database of drugs listed by dosage, strength and packaging, and automatic cross checks and alerts. Providers can check drug allergies, potential conflicts between a new and existing prescription and more.

A study conducted in partnership with the University of Washington’s School of Pharmacy showed that e-prescriptions improved patient safety by reduced potential medication errors and avoided adverse drug reactions. Researchers evaluated more than 5,000 prescriptions written before an electronic order entry system was implemented at the Clinic and 5,000 more after e-prescribing was put into place.

The study found that the e-prescribing system greatly decreased medication inaccuracies. For example:
  • Odds of prescription errors were reduced by 70 percent
  • Odds of illegible (handwritten or typed) prescriptions were reduced by 97 percent
  • Odds of missing information were reduced by 85 percent
  • Odds of incorrect medication abbreviations were reduced by 94 percent
This was the largest known study to evaluate e-prescribing in an outpatient setting. It was published in 2010 in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA).