Researchers found that almost 90 percent of doctors said they avoided at least one potentially harmful drug reaction in the previous month. They said additional drug events could be avoided if more doctors took advantage of the drug-reference software that is available on the devices.
"Most U.S. nursing homes do not have electronic medical record systems and, as a result, physicians frequently do not have access to current medication information at the point of prescribing," lead investigator Dr. Steven Handler, an assistant professor of biomedical informatics, geriatric medicine and clinical and translational sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said in a university news release.
"The lack of accurate and timely medication information can lead to adverse drug events and drug-drug interactions," Handler said. "Our hypothesis was that if physicians could look up drug information first, many of these mistakes could be avoided."
In conducting the study, the researchers surveyed more than 550 nursing home doctors about whether they owned a mobile device. If they did, they were asked how and when they used it, as well as what type of drug reference software they used and how often. The researchers also asked how the information obtained from drug reference software affected adverse drug events and drug interactions.
The study, published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, revealed that 42 percent of the doctors said they used a mobile device to check drug information. The researchers found that this behavior was more common among the doctors who had been in practice for fewer than 15 years.
Of the doctors who used a mobile device, the study also showed that 98 percent reported using drug-reference software on a daily basis for the past four weeks. Meanwhile, 75 percent said they referenced current drug information through their device an average of three or more times each day.
The researchers also found that 88 percent of these doctors said using their mobile device to look up drug information had prevented at least one adverse drug reaction in the past four weeks.
"Those who did look up medication information on their mobile devices clearly felt that this was helpful and improved medication safety," Handler said. "However, we found that fewer than half of the nursing home doctors were doing this, which suggests that there is a lot of potential to reduce adverse event rates further if more of them took advantage of these tools."
Drug events are linked to roughly 93,000 deaths in nursing homes every year, about half of which are thought to be preventable, according to the study. These drug events also are responsible for $4 billion in extra health care costs every year.
The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provides more information on preventing adverse drug events.