Editorials

Computer based prescribing

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.311.7014.1181 (Published 04 November 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:1181
  1. Jeremy Wyatt,
  2. Robert Walton
  1. Manager Biomedical Informatics Unit, Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London WC2A 3PX
  2. Member, scientific staff Imperial Cancer Research Fund General Practice Research Group, Oxford OX2 6HE

    Improves decision making and reduces costs

    This month the British National Formulary goes electronic. Since it was first published in 1981 the paper version of the formulary has provided doctors and pharmacists with biannually updated information on all drugs that can be prescribed in Britain. It is now available on CD ROM.1 The move is welcome because there is growing evidence that tools for computer based prescribing help doctors to make better and cheaper prescribing decisions.

    Doctors in Britain prescribe drugs costing pounds sterling3.3bn annually, pounds sterling450m of which could potentially be saved.2 But deciding which drug to prescribe can be difficult.3 One in 20 admissions to hospital is for the treatment of side effects related to drugs or the results of drug interactions4 (perhaps due to the difficulties that doctors have in calculating drug doses5) or other prescribing problems.3

    Various approaches to improving the quality of prescribing have been tested. Local formularies and visits by prescribing advisers seem to improve the appropriateness of prescribing and reduce the costs,6 7 and computer based prescribing seems to confer similar benefits. Almost …

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