It would seem like a good use of electronic medical records.
Use this new technology to obtain precise doses for common medicines.
In most cases, it’s an accurate and efficient system.
However, a group of researchers says there can be problems when this electronic dosage process is used with older adults.
In a study published this week in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the researchers said the “default doses” that come up on electronic records can sometimes produce doses that are too strong for people 65 years and older.
This can cause them to fall, become ill, or become confused.
“I think this is a pretty common problem,” Dr. Rosanne Leipzig, professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, and a co-author of the study, told Healthline.
Study set in hospital
In their study, researchers looked at 324 falls in one calendar year at The Mount Sinai Hospital that occurred in patients 65 years or older.
The researchers determined that 62 percent of the incidents happened with individuals who were given at least one high-risk medication in the previous 24 hours.
They said 16 percent of the falls happened with patients who had been given two medications. Another 16 percent had received three medications.
The researchers added that in many of these cases the medication was given at a higher dose than usually recommended for older adults.
Leipzig explained that when a medication is typed into an electronic health record, the first (or default) dose that usually pops up is the one recommended for an average adult.
A medical professional can search the medical record further for other recommended doses, but Leipzig said that doesn’t always happen.
“As with anything electronic, people don’t like to click more than once,” she said.
Although the study was done in a hospital, Leipzig said these mistakes can happen in clinics or doctors’ offices.
She said the dosage error is no small thing. The medications involved many times are pain killers or sleep aids.
The electronic doses, Leipzig said, are generally a good idea.
They provide accurate, standardized dosages on a screen where the instructions are clearly typed out. This avoids any mistakes due to poor handwriting or other human error.
Leipzig said educating medical professionals about this “default dosage” doesn’t seem to be working.
“Trying to change a doctor’s prescribing habits is not easy,” she said.
So, the researchers are recommending the electronic medical records be re-calibrated to take into account a person’s age.
When someone is 65 or older, the first dose that would appear on the screen is the one recommended for older adults.
Leipzig said the same could be done for people who don’t weigh much or have special conditions.
However, she said the main problem with the inaccurate doses occurs with seniors.