Female doctor with stethoscope looking at a tablet device.

Prepopulated Medication Fields

Use caution, especially with three-character codes.

Prepopulated menus can be handy, but they can also result in errors when using a minimum amount of letters in prepopulated menus.

Yikes!  Who hasn’t sent an email to the incorrect recipient because the field “prepopulated” with a similar email address? It’s happened to the best of us — sometimes with embarrassing or funny outcomes.

Now, consider this happening in your EHR with your medication list. Medication errors are one of the top drivers of medical malpractice claims. Issues arise on both sides of the fence: incorrect prescribing and the patient misusing the medication. While you should address both, let’s focus this time on prescribing.

Using Five Characters May Reduce Errors

Unlike in our email addresses, selection of the correct medication can be critical to patient safety. The Institute of Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) has reported that entering just a few of the first characters of a drug name can lead to selection errors. Using only a few characters may reveal similar-looking drug names, which can lead to selection errors (just like in our email addresses). The ISMP is recommending the use of the first five characters to reduce the possibility of incorrect selection, which will limit the results appearing on your screen.

An ECRI analysis of drug names revealed that 92% of FDA approved drugs have the same first three (3) letters as at least one other drug. By using the first five letters, the percentage of similar names drops to 58%.  Consider mandating the five-character requirement for medication prepopulated field — and maybe double-check your email addresses as well!


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