Original Research

Hybrid electronic record: An error reduction strategy for diverse medical prescription formats

Carl-Heinz Kruse, Michelle T.D. Smith, Damian L. Clarke
South African Family Practice | Vol 66, No 1 : Part 3| a5845 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/safp.v66i1.5845 | © 2024 Carl-Heinz Kruse, Michelle T.D. Smith, Damian L. Clarke | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 October 2023 | Published: 07 June 2024

About the author(s)

Carl-Heinz Kruse, Department of Ophthalmology, School of Clinical Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Michelle T.D. Smith, Department of Surgery, School of Clinical Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Damian L. Clarke, Department of Surgery, School of Clinical Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa; and, Department of Surgery, School of Clinical Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Abstract

Background: This project is part of a broader effort to develop a new electronic registry for ophthalmology in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province in South Africa. The registry should include a clinical decision support system that reduces the potential for human error and should be applicable for our diversity of hospitals, whether electronic health record (EHR) or paper-based.

Methods: Post-operative prescriptions of consecutive cataract surgery discharges were included for 2019 and 2020. Comparisons were facilitated by the four chosen state hospitals in KZN each having a different system for prescribing medications: Electronic, tick sheet, ink stamp and handwritten health records. Error types were compared to hospital systems to identify easily-correctable errors. Potential error remedies were sought by a four-step process.

Results: There were 1307 individual errors in 1661 prescriptions, categorised into 20 error types. Increasing levels of technology did not decrease error rates but did decrease the variety of error types. High technology scripts had the most errors but when easily correctable errors were removed, EHRs had the lowest error rates and handwritten the highest.

Conclusion: Increasing technology, by itself, does not seem to reduce prescription error. Technology does, however, seem to decrease the variability of potential error types, which make many of the errors simpler to correct.

Contribution: Regular audits are an effective tool to greatly reduce prescription errors, and the higher the technology level, the more effective these audit interventions become. This advantage can be transferred to paper-based notes by utilising a hybrid electronic registry to print the formal medical record.


Keywords

human error; error rate; prescription; prescribing; medication; electronic health record; electronic medical record; handwritten

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being

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