CONTEXT. Pediatric and intensive care patients are particularly at risk for medication errors. Computerized physician order entry systems could be effective in reducing medication errors and improving outcome. Effectiveness of computerized physician order entry systems has been shown in adult medical care. However, in critically ill patients and/or children, medication prescribing is a more complex process, and usefulness of computerized physician order entry systems has yet to be established.

OBJECTIVE. To evaluate the effects of computerized physician order entry systems on medication prescription errors, adverse drug events, and mortality in inpatient pediatric care and neonatal, pediatric or adult intensive care settings.

METHODS. PubMed, the Cochrane library, and Embase up to November 2007 were used as our data sources. Inclusion criteria were studies of (1) children 0 to 18 years old and/or ICU patients (including adults), (2) computerized physician order entry versus no computerized physician order entry as intervention, and (3) randomized trial or observational study design. All studies were validated, and data were analyzed.

RESULTS. Twelve studies, all observational, met our inclusion criteria. Eight studies took place at an ICU: 4 were adult ICUs, and 4 were PICUs and/or NICUs. Four studies were pediatric inpatient studies. Meta-analysis showed a significant decreased risk of medication prescription errors with use of computerized physician order entry. However, there was no significant reduction in adverse drug events or mortality rates. A qualitative assessment of studies revealed the implementation process of computerized physician order entry software as a critical factor for outcome.

CONCLUSIONS. Introduction of computerized physician order entry systems clearly reduces medication prescription errors; however, clinical benefit of computerized physician order entry systems in pediatric or ICU settings has not yet been demonstrated. The quality of the implementation process could be a decisive factor determining overall success or failure.

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