COWs boosting patient safety

19 Jun 2013 | Medication Safety

Press release from Minister of Health Hon Tony Ryall

Doctors and nurses are using a COW (computer on wheels) to make medicines safer for patients.

Health Minister Tony Ryall visited North Shore Hospital yesterday to see first-hand how hospital doctors and nurses prescribe and administer medication electronically using mobile computers.

“Electronic prescribing eliminates the risk of errors such as typing in the wrong patients’ name and unreadable writing. It also alerts doctors to potential medication errors, such as under or over prescribing,” says Mr Ryall.

“Last year Waitemata District Health Board (DHB) introduced e-prescribing in two wards at North Shore Hospital. It has now rolled the system out to 210 beds in two older person wards at North Shore Hospital, the Mason Clinic Forensic Unit and the Muriwai Ward at Waitakere Hospital.

“Nurses move the COW from bed to bed to administer and monitor medicines. The nurses told me they are now spending more time with their patients as they no longer have to go back and forth between patients and their workstation to complete paperwork.

Alan Merry and Tony Ryall

From left: Prof Alan Merry and Hon Tony Ryall.

“Since introducing e-prescribing the DHB has eliminated all legibility errors, where the name of medicine or a dosage was unreadable. The system also provides alerts to assist doctors when prescribing medicines.

“For example, if a patient is allergic to a medicine, such as penicillin, the system will alert anyone trying to prescribe them this medicine.  This is very much about harnessing the benefits of new technology to keep patients safe.” 

During the visit, Mr Ryall also announced a national e-prescribing contract has been signed with an international information technology company, CSC.

“The national contract will encourage public hospitals to use e-prescribing by offering a competitive pricing package. It will also ensure the system used across the country is the same and supported by strong clinical leadership.

“Currently three DHBs – Southern, Taranaki, Waitemata – use the e-prescribing system and we hope to have all DHBs within the next couple of years.

Electronic prescribing is part of the national Medication Safety Programme led by the National Health IT Board and the Health Quality & Safety Commission. 

Last updated 24/06/2013