New medication technology being introduced into New Zealand hospitals is expected to prevent more than 70 patient deaths per year.
Dunedin Hospital is the first in the country to launch electronic prescribing, known as 'e-prescribing'. The technology allows staff to ditch paper charts in favour of laptops, with computer programmes generating and advising when and how prescriptions are to be filled.
It is believed that the technology will increase staff efficiency, and save each nurse around an hour of lost productivity per shift. It is also hoped that the new system will help staff to avoid problems when reading doctors' notoriously bad handwriting.
Dr Andrew Bowers from the Southern DHB says the new system is set up with alerts to ensure medication is given accurately and on time.
"In total, we've got at least 98% reduction in errors," Bowers said.
Consultant physician Dion Astwood said he can access the technology from home when he's on call for example and "even make minor changes without having to talk to my junior staff about what I want to be done".
ONE News Health Reporter Lorelei Mason says around 70 staff at Dunedin Hospital are now using the new system.
"There was a little bit of nervousness from those who weren't perhaps quite as computer savvy but I'm aware of one of my nurses who went to two training sessions just so she was able to get the opportunity to learn," nurse Margot Love said of the technology.
E-prescribing is now up and running in one ward at Taranaki Hospital, while the Waitemata DHB is due to launch the system in November.
The technology is expected to be introduced to all hospitals by 2014, at a cost of around $5 million per hospital.
Bowers says once the system is rolled out he expects deaths to be reduced by at least 75 per year.
"And we'll be able to reduce harm by many thousands," he said.