Cause of Death: Sloppy Handwriting

Sloppy Handwriting Here is a Time Magazine article from earlier this year where author Jeremy Caplan digs further into the preventable medication mistakes statistics. Caution, coarse figures ahead…

Doctors’ sloppy handwriting kills more than 7,000 people annually. It’s a shocking statistic, and, according to a July 2006 report from the National Academies of Science’s Institute of Medicine (IOM), preventable medication mistakes also injure more than 1.5 million Americans annually. Many such errors result from unclear abbreviations and dosage indications and illegible writing on some of the 3.2 billion prescriptions written in the U.S. every year.

“Thousands of people are dying, and we’ve been talking about this problem for ages,” says Glen Tullman, CEO of Allscripts, a Chicago-based health care technology company, that initiated the project. “This is crazy. We have the technology today to prevent these errors, so why aren’t we doing it?”

Although some doctors have been prescribing electronically for years, many still use pen and paper. This is the first national effort to make a Web-based tool free for all doctors. Tullman says that even though 90% of the country’s approximately 550,000 doctors have access to the Internet, fewer than 10% of them have invested the time and money required to begin using electronic medical records or e-prescriptions.

SureScripts CEO Kevin Hutchinson says one key to reducing medication errors is to get the most prolific prescribers to transition to electronic processing. “Not a lot of people understand that 15% of physicians in the U.S. write 50% of the prescription volume,” Hutchinson says. “And 30% of them write 80%. So it’s not about getting 100% of physicians to e-prescribe. It’s about getting those key 30% who prescribe the most. Then you’ve automated the process.”

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