Cedars-Sinai Medical Center suspends CPOE

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LOS ANGELES (AP) – Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the largest private hospital in the West, is suspending use of a multimillion-dollar computerized system for doctors' orders because physicians complained it was endangering patient safety and required too much work.

The computer software was designed to reduce medical errors, allow doctors to track orders electronically, and warn them about dangerous drug interactions and redundant laboratory work.

Since it debuted in October, however, the Patient Care Expert program, dubbed PCX, has been plagued with problems, many doctors said.

"The PCX system is presenting too many safety issues in the care of our patients," cardiologist Dr. Mark Urman said. "The only logical, prudent and safe thing to do is to put it on hold until it can be made better."

Interest in computerized physician-order entry software accelerated in 1999 after the Institute of Medicine concluded that up to 98,000 patients die annually in hospitals from avoidable medical errors.

A 2000 California law requires hospitals to implement formal plans, including new technologies, to eliminate or substantially reduce medication-related errors by Jan. 1, 2005.

Most hospitals buy a commercially available product, but Cedars-Sinai decided to create its own, following the example of other major hospitals such as Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Latter-Day Saints Hospital in Salt Lake City.

Estimates of the system's cost have gone as high as $34 million. Hospital officials have said that estimate was too high but they declined to provide a precise figure.

This week, Cedars-Sinai suspended the ordering system after more than 400 physicians confronted hospital administrators during a tense staff meeting Friday. The doctors voted nearly unanimously to urge the hospital to halt the system until the problems are fixed.