A Conceptual Framework for Evaluating Outpatient Electronic Prescribing Systems Based on Their Functional Capabilities

Published in: Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, v. 11, no. 1, Jan./Feb. 2004, p. 60-70

by Douglas S. Bell, Shan Cretin, Richard S. Marken, Adam B. Landman

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OBJECTIVE: Electronic prescribing (e-prescribing) may substantially improve health care quality and efficiency, but the available systems are complex and their heterogeneity makes comparing and evaluating them a challenge. The authors aimed to develop a conceptual framework for anticipating the effects of alternative designs for outpatient e-prescribing systems. DESIGN: Based on a literature review and on telephone interviews with e-prescribing vendors, the authors identified distinct e-prescribing functional capabilities and developed a conceptual framework for evaluating e-prescribing systems' potential effects based on their capabilities. Analyses of two commercial e-prescribing systems are presented as examples of applying the conceptual framework. MEASUREMENTS: Major e-prescribing functional capabilities identified and the availability of evidence to support their specific effects. RESULTS: The proposed framework for evaluating e-prescribing systems is organized using a process model of medication management. Fourteen e-prescribing functional capabilities are identified within the model. Evidence is identified to support eight specific effects for six of the functional capabilities. The evidence also shows that a functional capability with generally positive effects can be implemented in a way that creates unintended hazards. Applying the framework involves identifying an e-prescribing system's functional capabilities within the process model and then assessing the effects that could be expected from each capability in the proposed clinical environment. CONCLUSION: The proposed conceptual framework supports the integration of available evidence in considering the full range of effects from e-prescribing design alternatives. More research is needed into the effects of specific e-prescribing functional alternatives. Until more is known, e-prescribing initiatives should include provisions to monitor for unintended hazards.

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