Adverse drug effects cause an estimated 93,000 deaths and $4 billion in excess health care costs in nursing homes each year. More significant is the fact that about half of these adverse effects are preventable. Most nursing homes lack the technology, such as electronic medical record systems, required to track current patient medication information. The lack of current information often leads to the prescribing of dangerous drug combinations and drugs with side effects dangerous to the patient. As a result of this information, researchers hypothesized that a doctor’s ability to look up drug information before prescribing would lead to a reduction of medication errors.
A new study published in October 2013 shows a correlation between the use of drug reference mobile applications and medication error reduction in nursing homes. These applications give nursing home physicians access to drug reference databases that enable them to determine the best combination of medication that will not have adverse effects on the patient. The study surveyed over 500 nursing home doctors regarding their use of drug reference software and mobile devices. Researchers found that approximately 42 percent of participants used their mobile devices to check drug information, the majority of which were younger doctors. 80 percent of participants reported that their use of the drug reference application prevented one or more potential medication errors in the past four weeks.
Despite the evidence that mobile applications can reduce medication errors in nursing homes, the problem is that less than half of nursing home doctors are utilizing this technology. Researchers suggest that there is potential to further reduce the medication error rates but it is up to physicians to take advantage of the tools they literally have at their fingertips.