JAMA articles cast doubt over healthcare technology

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An article published in today's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found 22 ways a computer system for physicians could increase the risk of medication errors. The JAMA article said most of the problems were created by poorly designed software that too often ignored how doctors and nurses work in a hospital setting.
Researchers said the likelihood of errors increased because information on patients' medications was scattered throughout the computer system. For example, to find a single patients' medication, a physician might have to browse up to 20 screens of information, researchers said.
Among the causes of error listed were patient names' being grouped together confusingly in tiny print, drug dosages that seem arbitrary and computer crashes.
Another article in today's JAMA examined 100 trials of computer systems intended to assist physicians in diagnosing and treating patients. The article said most of the positive assessment of clinical decision support systems came from technologists who played a role in designing the systems.
"In fact 'grading oneself' was the only factor that was consistently associated with good evaluations," JAMA's editorial titled "Still Waiting for Godot," said.

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