Rural ERs Behind in Electronic Prescribing
Emergency departments in rural hospitals are lagging in switching to electronic drug prescriptions, which may mean increased medication errors, a new study finds. Although health providers will eventually face steep penalties if they donâ€™t change their systems, the study uncovered a large gap between urban and rural hospitalsâ€™ prescribing methods.
The study, reported in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, also found wide variation among the four states — Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts and Oregon. While Massachusetts was in the lead with 44 percent of ERs having electronic prescribing, Georgia only had electronic prescribing in about one quarter of its ERs.
Electronic systems are recommended because they are believed to improve patient safety and reduce medication errors. Patientsâ€™ medical records are digitized, meaning that they can be easily accessed and shared among providers. In 2009, Congress authorized up to $27 billion in government incentives to get doctors and hospitals to switch to “meaningful use” of health information technology.
Although the researchers werenâ€™t sure why the disparities between rural and urban ERs existed, they hoped that recent federal financial initiatives would lead to increased adoption of electronic information technology methods.
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