Computerised vs paper prescribing in hospitals – more pros than cons

Computerised prescriptions are easier to read and more complete than paper prescriptions. These are some immediate and important improvements of moving from paper to computerised prescribing in hospital, according to an article in the latest edition of Australian Prescriber.

Associate Professor Melissa Baysari from the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney and Dr Magdalena Raban from Macquarie University look at the benefits of electronic prescribing systems in hospitals.

“Electronic prescribing systems in hospitals reduce medication errors, largely from a decrease in incomplete or illegible orders,” says Associate Professor Baysari.

“Medicine errors were, for example, more than halved in a study in two Sydney hospitals.”

While medication errors in hospitals decline after electronic prescribing systems are implemented, these systems can also introduce new types of errors.

“Systems presenting users with too many choices can cause problems,” says Associate Professor Baysari.

“If an electronic prescribing system presents too many medicine and dose options, some overloaded doctors may choose the first option on the menu to save time.

“Also, like the boy who cried ‘wolf’, if the system gives too many alerts and notifications, the doctor may just ignore them, possibly missing a medicine error,” she says.

Decision-support features like drop-down menus that prioritise the most relevant options, and alerts tailored to the prescriber’s needs, can help minimise errors introduced by using computerised prescribing systems in hospitals.

“There is now little doubt that computerised prescribing reduces medication errors in hospitals. Providing the right information at the right time is important to maximise benefits while reducing new types of errors,” says Associate Professor Baysari.

Read the full article.


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Australian Prescriber is an independent peer-reviewed journal providing critical commentary on therapeutic topics for health professionals. It is published by NPS MedicineWise, an independent, not-for-profit organisation for quality use of medicines funded by the Australian Government Department of Health. Australian Prescriber is published every two months and is available online at