October 23, 2012
Researchers at IDWeek 2012 have stated that the use of electronic medical records (EMR) technology has reduced medication errors among hospitalized HIV patients from 16 percent to 1.1 percent, a 93 percent reduction. Jean Lee, Pharm.D., clinical pharmacist for HIV medicine at St. Mary's Health Care in Grand Rapids, Mich., states that patients living with HIV who are hospitalized for non-HIV illnesses often experience errors with their medication, likely because of the complexity of their antiretroviral regimens and the lack of familiarity with these among hospital staff. Lee and colleagues reported on results of a small EMR study of 20 patients at IDWeek 2012. Lee noted that the use of EMR "improved patient safety and showed a financial benefit" of approximately $25,000 for the hospital.
Other researchers reported that the error rate experienced in Grand Rapids was considerably lower than errors in prescribing drugs for HIV patients at the Cleveland Clinic and at the University of Chicago. Elizabeth Neuner, Pharm.D., an infectious disease clinical pharmacist at the Cleveland Clinic, found prescribing errors in approximately half of 162 HIV patients over a 10-month period, and Natasha Pettit, Pharm.D., a clinical pharmacy specialist at the University of Chicago, found a similar rate of errors over an 18-month period for 155 patients receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy at her institution.
Researcher Lee explains that the majority of errors found in her study involve the timing of the patient's medications. For example, many HIV patients take their medications in the evening, but while in the hospital may have been given them in the morning. This could cause fluctuations in medication levels which could be problematic. She also noted that hospitals often dose patients at 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., while doctors often tell patients to take twice-daily medications twelve hours apart. Lee went on to say that medication errors may lead to toxicity and decreased efficacy of antiretrovirals, leading to potential development of viral mutations to current therapy.