Drug Warning Alerts Often Ignored

Most computerized drug warning alerts generated in hospitals are overlooked by hospital staff, suggesting the system needs refinement, according to new research.

Computerized provider order entry (CPOE) systems were developed to generate warnings when there is the possibility of adverse events, allergy, interactions and duplications, with the intent of increasing the safety of inpatients.

"However, the problem with these computerized warning systems is that providers develop 'alert fatigue' and end up overriding many potentially important warnings," says Amy Knight, MD, of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore.

Researchers from the medical center analyzed 6,646 patients for whom a medication order generated a warning. They found that out of all the warnings that were generated, only 0.1% were for potential adverse medical events. Most of the alerts were for drug duplications and potential interactions, which is a reason why many medical professionals overlook them.

"Developers of these computerized provider systems need to revise their programs to more clearly differentiate between types of warnings and, in particular, to distinguish the warnings that are most likely to have severe consequences," concluded researchers.

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