Leapfrog applauds the Obama Administration for including Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) as part of the final Meaningful Use regulations, published last month in the Federal Register. These new federal regulations are an important first step in accelerating health information technology adoption. By including CPOE, the nation has taken a strong step toward advancing the use of this lifesaving technology, which in turn holds promise to save tens of thousands of lives and billions of dollars.
Unfortunately, despite committing as much as $30 billion to these technological upgrades, the regulations do not require hospitals to reassure taxpayers that the technology is safe. To demonstrate "meaningful use" of health information technology and receive federal money, hospitals are not required to confirm that their system actually works as intended. The Leapfrog Group believes the regulations should require this additional protection for Americans.
On behalf of our membership of employers and other purchasers of health care, we are deeply concerned about this omission. Just over two weeks ago, Leapfrog reported the results of 214 hospitals that completed a simulation testing the efficacy of their CPOE systems. The report revealed that about half of all potential medication errors went undetected by the technology. Worse, almost one third of orders tested that might have resulted in fatalities went undetected. The good news: hospitals that repeated the test after 6 months demonstrated improved performance, reinforcing the value of ongoing monitoring as critical to safe practice. Safety must be at the forefront when implementing technology.
Since our formation by employer purchasers of health care a decade ago, The Leapfrog Group has served as the nation's leading nonprofit advocate for accelerating the safe adoption of health information technology, especially Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) systems in hospitals. We strongly support adoption of CPOE, the best known way to prevent medication errors, which are the most common patient safety problem in hospitals. Research indicates that over one million serious medication errors occur in the United States every year, costing the country an estimated $7.5 billion.
The literature is compelling that CPOE is critical for the safety of the American public and it should have been adopted by every hospital in America long ago. Lifesaving technology should be adopted by hospitals immediately and safely, and federal money should pay for no less.