Prescription pads, paper forms, and patient charts may eventually vanish from America's hospitals. Administrators are buying electronic record-keeping systems to improve efficiency-and reduce mistakes that endanger thousands of patients every year.
A 1999 Institute of Medicine report found that medical errors, such as faulty record keeping, contribute to more than 1 million injuries and up to 98,000 deaths annually.
Doctors' bad handwriting is considered part of the problem, as are incorrect dosages, adverse drug interactions, and other mishaps. That makes new technology attractive to hospitals, despite the expense.
Nearly a quarter of hospitals will have an electronic record-keeping system in place by next year, according to a survey by the Leapfrog Group. Installation costs range from $500,000 to $15 million.