Schumer Pushes Bill to Curb Medication Mistakes
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) "prescribed a dose of computer technology" yesterday for "financially ailing" hospitals to help fight one of the nation's "biggest medical threats" -- medication errors, the New York Post reports. During a news conference at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, Schumer talked about a bill he proposed earlier this month -- the Health Information Technology and Quality Improvement Act (S 705) -- that would federally fund up to 80% of the cost of implementing computer information systems in hospitals to fill prescriptions, test for drug interactions and record medical histories. Schumer said that the bill, which would cost $355 million over five years, would provide "special consideration" for rural and urban hospitals that "demonstrate the most urgent need." According to Schumer, the computer systems could help eliminate medication errors such as illegible handwriting, "poor" fax transmissions and misplaced decimal points (Greene, New York Post, 4/30). He added, however, that the computer systems cost about $2 million and an additional $500,000 per year to maintain, a price tag "too expensive for cash-strapped hospitals." Newsday reports that each year medication errors lead to 7,000 deaths and cost hospitals $2 billion (Varghese, Newsday, 4/30). "With people's lives at risk, it's simply unacceptable to rely on pens, paper and aging filing cabinets. A trip to the hospital causes enough anxiety," Schumer said. The Greater New York Hospital Association reported that only 39% of hospitals in the New York metropolitan area have computer systems to help prevent medication errors, and "even many of those are outdated" (New York Post, 4/30). About 57,000 patients per year in New York state hospitals experience medication errors, Newsday reports (Newsday, 4/30).