ASHP 08 Survey: Technology use in hospital pharmacies increasing

December 7, 2008

In an attempt to reduce medication errors and adverse drug events and to provide pharmacists with more time for patient counseling, health-system pharmacies are increasingly adopting health information technology, according to a first-of-its-kind survey by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).

In an attempt to reduce medication errors and adverse drug events and to provide pharmacists with more time for patient counseling, health-system pharmacies are increasingly adopting health information technology, according to a first-of-its-kind survey by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).

The survey, which appears in the December 1, 2008, issue of the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, included 124 questions designed to gauge how pharmacists and other healthcare professionals are using technology.

"The survey shows the growing importance health-system pharmacists place on technology and its promising potential for decreasing medication errors and enhancing the safety of patients," ASHP President Kevin J. Colgan said. "What's more, technological advances could free up more time for pharmacists to provide clinical pharmacy services and have a greater impact on patient outcomes."

According to the survey, nearly a quarter of hospitals use bar-code medication administration, 44 percent use smart pumps, and about 12 percent are using computerized prescriber order entry.

Survey respondents expressed concern that hospital pharmacies are adopting new technology faster than they are providing adequate staff to implement and manage it. About 30 percent of the hospitals surveyed predicted they would be employing more pharmacy IT members before the end of the 2008 fiscal year.

Specifically, the survey found:

  • 83 percent of the hospital pharmacies surveyed have automated dispensing cabinets. Three-fourths of hospitals that use off-site pharmacists have links with these cabinets.
  • 10 percent have pharmacy robotics systems.
  • 13 percent use carousel systems to manage inventory.
  • One in five use e-prescribing for outpatient prescriptions.
  • 42 percent have a medication reconciliation system that combines paper and electronic systems; 48 percent use a paper-based system.

The survey also found that most hospitals are using multiple health information systems to manage patient medication usage, but that only a few have integrated the various systems. The study was developed by ASHP's Pharmacy Informatics and Technology section.