Doctors, down pencils

KATIE KENNY
Last updated 17:30 20/06/2013

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A computerised solution to bad handwriting on prescriptions is being touted as a lifesaver, at a cost of $17 million to taxpayers.

Instead of scribbling notes on pads, doctors will now enter prescriptions into specialised software.

"Electronic prescribing eliminates the risk of errors such as typing in the wrong patients' name and unreadable writing. It also alerts doctors to potential medication errors, such as under or overprescribing," Health Minister Tony Ryall said.

The Ministry of Health has signed a $17m contract to use the web-based solution to manage medication.

All 20 district health boards (DHBs) would have access to the technology, Ryall announced this week.

The software for prescribing, pharmacy review, drug administration and clinical decision-making is already used in hospitals in Australia and Britain.

It was trialled at Dunedin Hospital last year, with medical director of IT Southern DHB Dr Andrew Bowers saying it could save 75 lives annually.

Southern, Taranaki, Waitemata DHBs were using the e-prescribing system and all DHBs would have it within the next couple of years, Ryall said.

An Australian hospital using the system reported a 57.5 per cent reduction in prescribing errors and a 44 per cent drop in serious medication errors.

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