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Work effort, readability and quality of pharmacy transcription of patient directions from electronic prescriptions: a retrospective observational cohort analysis

Yifan Zheng, Yun Jiang, , Yuting Ding, V G Vinod Vydiswaran,
Published: 25 May 2020
 by  BMJ
BMJ Quality & Safety , Volume 30, pp 311-319; doi:10.1136/bmjqs-2019-010405

Abstract: Background Free-text directions generated by prescribers in electronic prescriptions can be difficult for patients to understand due to their variability, complexity and ambiguity. Pharmacy staff are responsible for transcribing these directions so that patients can take their medication as prescribed. However, little is known about the quality of these transcribed directions received by patients. Methods A retrospective observational analysis of 529 990 e-prescription directions processed at a mail-order pharmacy in the USA. We measured pharmacy staff editing of directions using string edit distance and execution time using the Keystroke-Level Model. Using the New Dale-Chall (NDC) readability formula, we calculated NDC cloze scores of the patient directions before and after transcription. We also evaluated the quality of directions (eg, included a dose, dose unit, frequency of administration) before and after transcription with a random sample of 966 patient directions. Results Pharmacy staff edited 83.8% of all e-prescription directions received with a median edit distance of 18 per e-prescription. We estimated a median of 6.64 s of transcribing each e-prescription. The median NDC score increased by 68.6% after transcription (26.12 vs 44.03, p Conclusion Pharmacy staff put significant effort into transcribing e-prescription directions. Manual transcription removed the majority of quality issues; however, pharmacy staff still miss or introduce following their manual transcription processes. The development of tools and techniques such as a comprehensive set of structured direction components or machine learning–based natural language processing techniques may help produce clear directions.
Keywords: information technology / human factors / human error / medication safety / pharmacists

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