A new information system promises to enable doctors to have all drug information at hand while prescribing so they do not have to refer to their books before they prescribe any drug.
Jean-Baptiste Lamy of the University of Paris and colleagues have developed a new symbolic language for drug information that could speed up the process and help avoid prescribing errors.
The French researchers have come up with a graphical language for medical knowledge visualisation called VCM (Visualisation des Connaissances Médicales).
The VCM graphical language uses a small set of graphical signs, which is just like laundry symbols or road signs, and which may in turn be combined to build simple sentences that convey information of the kind usually described in long-winded drug monographs, such as a drug's side effects or interactions and conditions when it should not be prescribed.
Doctors can easily make use of this resulting system, along with the doctor's underlying medical training, to help determine the appropriate prescription for the patient.
VCM was tested with a group of volunteer general practitioners to know whether the language is easy to learn and understand and whether it works in practice. Each practitioner underwent training to learn VCM and was then tested on the meanings of the icons and combinations of icons representing different aspects of a drug monograph.
The results revealed that physicians read VCM significantly faster than an equivalent text, and that too with fewer errors.
"VCM can be learnt in a few hours and appears to be easy to read" says Lamy. "It will considerably speed up access to drug information. The language could also be used to enrich other medical documents and for patient electronic records" added Lamy.
The study is published in the open access journal BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making.