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Special Communication
April 1, 1998

Computerized PrescribingBuilding the Electronic Infrastructure for Better Medication Usage

Author Affiliations

From the Collaborative Research Unit, Department of Medicine, Cook County Hospital, Chicago, Ill (Dr Schiff), and the College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois at Chicago (Dr Rucker).

JAMA. 1998;279(13):1024-1029. doi:10.1001/jama.279.13.1024

Computerized prescribing in the practice of medicine is a change that is overdue. Virtually all prescriptions in the United States are still handwritten. Instead, medications should be ordered on a computer interacting with 3 databases; patient drug history, scientific drug information and guideline reference, and patient-specific (weight, laboratory) data. Current problems with prescribing on which computerized prescribing could have a positive impact include (1) drug selection; (2) patient role in pharmacotherapy risk-benefit decision making; (3) screening for interactions (drug-drug, drug-laboratory, drug-disease); (4) linkages between laboratory and pharmacy; (5) dosing calculations and scheduling; (6) coordination between team members, particularly concerning patient education; (7) monitoring and documenting adverse effects; and (8) postmarketing surveillance of therapy outcomes. Computerized prescribing is an important component of clinician order entry. Development of this tool has been impeded by a number of conceptual, implementation, and policy barriers. Overcoming these constraints will require clinically and professionally guided vision and leadership.