Drug prescription or administration errors are the most common causes of adverse events for hospital patients. Computer-based systems can be effective in reducing these errors. The aim of this study was to assess whether computer-based systems are easily exploitable even in critical conditions. The oral and handwritten system for drug management was completely replaced by a computer-based system in our bone marrow transplant unit, chosen because: (i) the intensive treatments could test the efficiency of the system; (ii) the very frequent occurrence of complications and emergencies could test the flexibility of the system; and (iii) the pre-existing system could be used as comparison. From May to November 2002, 41 patients were repeatedly admitted to undergo high-dose chemotherapy, autologous/allogeneic stem cell transplantation or because of severe complications. In 27 consecutive admissions, 2264 drug prescriptions (average, 29 drugs/patient admission) and 36 786 drug administrations (39.8/patient/d) were carried out. Despite the large number of procedures, the computerized system effectively replaced the oral and handwritten transmission of information among medical staff, pharmacists and nurses, and lowered the error risks. In addition, it contributed to medical updating through warnings on potential problems in case of multiple drug prescriptions, and gave the pharmacy a valuable tool to monitor drug use.
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