A review of electronic health records helped researchers determine that some patients might be receiving higher-than-recommended doses of pain medication, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Modern Healthcare reports.
Higher-than-recommended doses of acetaminophen can raise a patient's risk of toxicity and acute liver failure.
How the Study Relied on EHRs
For the study, researchers examined electronic medication administration record data on more than 14,000 patients at two Boston-area hospitals (McKinney, Modern Healthcare, 11/12).
The study looked at data on patients who had been admitted to the two hospitals from June 1, 2010, through Aug. 31, 2010 (Bankhead, MedPage Today, 11/12).
Researchers said that the EHR data enabled them to determine patients' actual intake of acetaminophen, instead of estimating intake levels based on whether prescriptions were filled (Modern Healthcare, 11/12).
Researchers found that over a three-month period, 6.6% of patients received more than the recommended maximum daily dose of four grams of acetaminophen.
More than 20% of patients older than age 65 and nearly 18% of patients with chronic liver disease received more than three grams of the pain reliever daily, which is higher than the amount considered to be therapeutic for such patients.
Comments on Findings
The study's authors wrote that it is challenging for health care providers to monitor a patient's total acetaminophen intake, particularly when the patient is receiving multiple drugs over a 24-hour period (MedPage Today, 11/12).
However, they noted that computerized clinical decision support systems that generate liver toxicity warnings could help health care providers better comply with guidelines on acetaminophen use (Modern Healthcare, 11/12).