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Computer Physician Order Entry and the Real World: We're Only Humans

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Abstract:

Background: Computer physician order entry (CPOE) may have significant benefit to reducing medical errors in the hospital setting. The belief in the promise of CPOE has led organizations such as the Leap Frog Group to advocate for the implementation of CPOE in hospitals to improve patient safety. Human factors, or ergonomics, is the study of the interaction between humans and the systems and tools they use. It is unclear whether human factors principles have been applied to commercially available CPOE systems.

Conclusions: CPOE's true utility for preventing medical errors and harm is largely undetermined. The evidence that exists for error reduction with CPOE is in the setting of "homegrown" systems and not commercially available products. The cases portrayed in the two scenarios described in this article were drawn from actual events to illustrate how failure to attend to human factors and human-centered design can create or facilitate errors and harm.

Recommendations for Organizations in Implementing CPOE: Organizations implementing CPOE or considering doing so could evaluate potential systems on the basis of evidence for human-centered design. An organization interested in addressing human factors issues as they relate to CPOE might, for example, familiarize itself with the basics of human factors, usability, and with existing evaluation methods for CPOE; involve the people who do the daily work in the evaluation and selection process; and ask potential vendors how they have addressed human factors in their CPOE systems.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2004

More about this publication?
  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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