Variations in Drug Allergy Records May Compromise Warning Systems

Published Online: Monday, August 4, 2014
Variations in drug allergy records in electronic health records limit clinicians’ ability to identify the risk of future reactions, suggest the results of an April 16 study published in PLoS One.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh and University College London interviewed 21 primary and secondary care clinicians, academics, and members of the informatics and drug regulatory communities; observed 4 general practices; and conducted an expert group discussion with 15 participants. Despite a pervasive acceptance of the importance of accurate drug allergy and adverse reaction recording, most reactions were likely to be underreported or unrecognized by health professionals. When drug allergies and reactions were reported, some were recorded inaccurately, and the recording process was not standardized.

According to researchers, the variations in recording methods limit an electronic system’s ability to alert clinicians about further reactions. In addition, several clinicians reported struggles in differentiating between drug allergies and adverse reactions, which could lead to incomplete or inaccurate entries. In some cases, incorrectly classifying adverse reactions as allergies led clinicians to withhold certain treatments.

“Although health care professionals widely appreciate the importance of recording this information, there is at present no agreement amongst clinicians on what needs to be recorded in [electronic health records] and how,” the authors wrote.

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