Electronic health records: are medication lists a threat to patient safety?

An image to illustrate electronic health records and the question of are medication lists a threat to patient safety?
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One third of printed medication lists automatically generated from electronic health records had a discrepancy in a new study.

Many patients rely on the printed medication lists from electronic health records to keep track of prescribed medications in between clinic visits. However, the study, which examined the electronic health records from a cohort of ophthalmology patients, showed that in one third of them there was at least one discrepancy in medications discussed in the clinician’s note and those on the medication list.

Electronic health records in ophthalmology

In the study, they used data from the electronic health records of patients with microbial keratitis between July 2015 and August.

Maria Woodward, M.S., M.D., is a cornea specialist, assistant professor of ophthalmology and the study’s lead author. Woodward explained: “Corneal infection is an important disease condition to study ophthalmic medication lists because the medications change rapidly. Because of the multiple clinic visits and frequent medication changes. It is imperative to have strong verbal and written communication between providers and patients who are battling corneal infections.”

Woodward added: “This level of inconsistency is a red flag. Patients who rely on the after-visit summary may be at risk for avoidable medication errors that may affect their healing or experience medication toxicity.”

Why are there discrepancies in the medication list?

According to Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan, the switch to EHR has led to improvements in patient care but this study illustrate that the tool is not perfect.

Typically, a prescription entered into the electronic health record triggers an order to the pharmacy and an update to the medication list. Woodward explains: “Issues arise when a medication is started by an outside provider and continued at the new hospital and when patients require compounded medications that must be telephoned in to a pharmacist in the evening.”

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