A Primer on Physician Order Entry

First Consulting Group

This report describes how computerized physician order entry systems (CPOE) work, discusses key features of the systems and the installation process, and provides case studies of hospitals that have implemented CPOE.

September 2000

The health care industry has been focusing on computerized physician order entry (CPOE) in hospitals as an important and underutilized tool for improving patient safety. CPOE is a computer application that accepts a physician's orders for diagnostic and treatment services (such as medications, laboratory, and other tests) electronically instead of having the physician record them on an order sheet or prescription pad. The computer compares the orders against standards for dosing, checks for allergies or interactions with other medications, and warns the physician about potential problems.

In 2000, much of the immediate interest in CPOE was focused on medication order entry and its potential to reduce medication errors, which were reported to be the largest single cause of medical errors in hospitals. CPOE systems also have been shown to reduce costs through avoided adverse events, reduced utilization, and shorter lengths of stay, and to reduce unnecessary variations in care by encouraging recommended care practices. To provide full value, CPOE needs to include decision support and other features that can improve the ordering process.

This 2000 report provides an overview of computerized physician order entry systems. The report describes how CPOE systems work, points out key features of the systems and the installation process, and provides case studies of hospitals that have implemented CPOE. The primer is available under Document Downloads below.