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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thousands of miles away, but right there: Pharmacy computer alerts

Something is better than nothing. On a recent trip my cold turned into an infection. The local walk-in clinic prescribed an antibiotic.

My drug insurance company – thousands of miles away, but right there on my pharmacist's computer – refused to pay for it because the prescribed antibiotic interacted with another drug I am taking.

Death, a stroke, or at minimum, a very bad headache would have ensued.

The pharmacist called the doctor, and something suitable was submitted. So there are some beginnings on shared electronic health data, and I am very glad.

-Hal Winsborough, Madison, Wisconsin

The pharmacy's computer alert, and the pharmacist's reaction, prevented injury to Hal. However, these computer systems are only as good as the human pharmacist who heeds, or ignores, the alert. Here's another story, about a pharmacy computer alert that a pharmacist chose to ignore and override.

Thanks to Hal Winsborough for his letter to the editor, published in the New York Times of April 11.

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