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Study shows electronic system to communicate medical orders may save lives

Implementing a computerized physician order entry (CPOE) system can significantly decrease hospital-wide mortality rates, according to a Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and Stanford University School of Medicine study published today in Pediatrics.

The system was launched at Packard Children’s in 2007 and correlated with a 20 percent decrease in mortality rates at the hospital over an 18-month period. Reuters reports:

When analyzing about eight years' worth of data, the researchers found that average mortality dropped from slightly more than one death per 100 hospital discharges to around 0.7 with the introduction of CPOE.

The system has also helped doctors limit some unnecessary procedures such as blood transfusions, which Packard Children's Hospital had overused...

...While it's hard to prove that CPOE is directly responsible for the decrease in mortality-which could have been brought about by other improvements during the same period-the researchers did the best they could to account for those factors.

Mark Del Beccaro, MD, vice chair for clinical affairs at Seattle Children's Hospital, who was not involved, commented in a release on the significance of the study results:

As the evolution and maturity of these systems and their benefits are being realized, there has been soft evidence that they improve patient safety. The Packard Children’s report is the first I am aware of to show that you can potentially affect mortality by putting CPOE in place. This is an important study, and we hope others can realize these benefits.

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