Information Technologies for the Prevention of Medication Errors


  • Pascal Bonnabry



Automated dispensing systems, Computerized physician order entry, Information technologies, Medication administration record, Medication errors


Significant efforts are currently under way to improve the safety of the medication process in hospitals. Among other solutions, new developments involving information technologies (IT) have attracted growing attention, as they have the potential to attenuate a leading cause of error: human failure. IT interventions focus on the three major steps of drug use: prescription (computerized physician order entry, CPOE), dispensing (automated dispensing systems, ADS) and administration (scanning barcodes or RFID tags). Although these technologies are used more and more in hospitals, only few robust data are actually available to measure their real impact on patient safety. CPOE is the best studied, followed by ADS and scanning technologies. More data are necessary to demonstrate their usefulness or to generalize results obtained in selected environments. An increased use of IT in future years seems to be unavoidable, but its implementation will be a real challenge, since cultural, human, technical, and ergonomic aspects will have to be taken into consideration to avoid failure. Moreover, these technologies can also potentially induce new risks, e.g. data entry errors, that need a careful consideration during implementation. In conclusion, IT has a huge potential to help reduce the occurrence of medication errors in hospitals, but the real positive impact and the induced risks need to be systematically and scientifically evaluated in various environments. In the Geneva university hospitals, some developments are under way to implement IT on pilot processes, with a concomitant evaluation by a systematic risk analysis method (FMECA).




How to Cite

P. Bonnabry, Chimia 2005, 59, 359, DOI: 10.2533/000942905777676399.