Medication safety greatly enhanced through ePocatres handheld drug database, as Harvard study shows

San Carlos 01 May 2002In the first published study evaluating the clinical impact of handheld drug reference guides, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, demonstrated that ePocrates Rx, a popular evidence-based drug reference guide, may help doctors significantly reduce the incidence of medication errors. The Harvard study follows a widely publicised report by the Institute of Medicine that medication errors cause thousands of deaths each year.


Over one in four physicians currently have ePocrates Rx, a drug reference software application for mobile devices containing comprehensive dosing and safety information distilled from primary sources, clinical publications, and treatment guidelines. The Harvard study findings, published in the current May/June issue of the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, indicate that 50 percent of ePocrates physicians surveyed reported averting 1-2 errors per week.

These results suggest that handheld devices equipped with the ePocrates Rx drug reference guide offer a simple, practical and cost-effective solution for reducing medication errors, particularly in the outpatient environment, where there are fewer checks and balances in place to ensure that consumers get the right drug at the right dose.

At present, many medical schools, health plans, physician groups, and clinical associations either require or encourage physicians to use handheld devices with ePocrates Rx. These devices are easy to use, fit in the doctors' pocket and are easily incorporated into the physicians' work flow. They can also be used anywhere physicians practise, including clinics, offices, and hospitals. Today, many doctors consider ePocrates Rx to be a clinical tool as essential to their practice as a stethoscope.

In addition to reducing errors, ePocrates Rx can also save clinicians time. Additional findings from the Harvard study show, for example, that doctors can look up drug information much faster using ePocrates Rx than with traditional sources such as the Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR). "Considering that over 200.000 physicians in the United States have downloaded ePocrates Rx, and over half of the doctors in the study reported avoiding at least one error per week, the annual number of potential errors avoided is enormous", stated Richard Fiedotin, M.D., vice president of clinical products at ePocrates.

The ePocrates Rx study was conducted at Brigham and Women's Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. ePocrates users were solicited to participate via e-mail in a seven-day on-line survey and approximately 870 physicians enrolled.

Findings from the ePocrates study include:

  • Clinicians find it difficult to keep up-to-date on the prescribing requirements of drugs, especially recently approved drugs.
  • 50 percent of physicians stated that ePocrates Rx helped them avoid one or more adverse drug events per week.
  • More than 80 percent of physicians said they refer to ePocrates twice a day or more.
  • 80 percent claimed that ePocrates Rx improved their drug knowledge and improved patient care.
  • Practice efficiency was rated as improved by over 80 percent of respondents in both inpatient and outpatient settings, with 60 percent of physicians surveyed reporting that it took them 10 seconds or less to find information using ePocrates Rx compared with one to five minutes for traditional methods.
  • More than 50 percent of physicians said that patients were more satisfied with their care.

ePocrates Inc. is a large handheld clinician network with over 500.000 health care professionals. In addition to the ePocrates Rx clinical drug database, ePocrates also offers ePocrates Rx Formulary, ePocrates ID, DocAlert messaging, and clinical trial and market research recruitment tools. More information on ePocrates is available in the VMW October 2001 article Aventis to sponsor handheld physician network in interactive clinical information pilot.

Leslie Versweyveld

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