Medical error in general -- medication error in particular -- is undoubtedly a complex systemic problem, but one of the more obvious sources of the problem is the bad handwriting of many physicians. They are not alone, of course, with their poor penmanship, but few of us can kill someone with an undecipherable scrawl. The solution? Tens of millions of dollars of computer wiring and hardware installations per hospital to support a Palm-Pilot-based system of medical data entry, starting with the physicians and medical students who write the progress notes and medication orders, according to a story
in today's Los Angeles Times
(free subscription required). It's too soon for this to be the standard of care, but that time is coming, so hospitals can pay now or they can pay later, but they are going to have to pay.