Preventable medication mistakes in hospitals is a leading causing of death. Top patient safety experts and The Leapfrog Group have called upon hospitals to replace risky, paper-based prescriptions with computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems.

If installed in every major hospital, CPOE systems would save tens of thousands of lives each year. However, few hospitals have CPOE systems and few plan to get them any time soon. In addition to costing $3-10 million per facility, hospital execs often face stiff resistance from docs unwilling to learn, replace their Rx pads with Palm Pilots, and work as teams. Even worse, because facilities are paid for quantity and not quality, improved patient safety often lowers a hospital’s revenue (fewer errors = fewer patient days = lower revenue).

Harvard Medical School researchers Eric G. Poon, David Blumenthal, and colleagues recently interviewed senior managers in 26 hospitals to identify ways to overcome barriers to adopting and implementing CPOE. Their thoughtful, on-target recommendations appear in the latest issue of Health Affairs.

Solutions, not unexpectedly, include financial incentives to hospitals, stronger hospital and physician leadership, greater public attention to patient safety, establishing more uniform data standards, and modernizing hospital IT infrastructures.

For further reading on savings lives through improved technology, check out my reading lists on:

Health care quality.

Medical errors.

Health care information technology.

Electronic medical records.