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CPOEs Can Decrease Mortality Rates, Research Shows

Cynthia Johnson, for HealthLeaders Media, December 9, 2010

By now, many healthcare organizations are on the road to implementing electronic medical record (EMR) and computerized physician order entry (CPOE) systems that we optimistically hope will cut costs, improve quality, and reduce medical errors—as well as comply with federal and state regulations. Although some organizations are further along on this journey than others, we all could use a little encouragement that we're travelling in the right direction.

A recent study released by researchers at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital (LPCH) and Stanford University may be just the signpost we've been waiting to see.

For the first time, researchers have shown that a significant decrease in hospital-wide ­mortality rates can be associated with implementing a CPOE system that enables physicians and other medical staff to order medications, tests, and other treatments electronically. If configured properly, the systems can also provide decision support at the point of care.

LPCH correlated its information technology (IT) system from Kansas City, MO?based ­software vendor Cerner Corporation with a 20% decrease in mortality rates at the hospital over an 18-month period, which amounts to 36 fewer deaths. The hospital launched its IT system in 2007.

"It lends information to the current debate about why you should implement these systems," says Eric Widen, MHA, administrative director of performance improvement at LPCH. "These systems are very expensive to implement. That level of investment is now justified by understanding that you can have a very significant impact on quality, and that includes mortality rates."

The study contradicts previous findings that had actually shown an unexpected increase in mortality rates after CPOE implementation, including a landmark publication that Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh published in Pediatrics in December 2005.

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