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Order checks are important error prevention tools when used in conjunction with practitioner order entry systems. We studied characteristics of order checks generated in a sample of consecutively entered orders during a 4 week period in an electronic medical record at VA Puget Sound. We found that in the 42,641 orders where an order check could potentially be generated, 11% generated at least one order check and many generated more than one order check. The rates at which the ordering practitioner overrode 'Critical drug interaction' and 'Allergy-drug interaction' alerts in this sample were 88% and 69% respectively. This was in part due to the presence of alerts for interactions between systemic and topical medications and for alerts generated during medication renewals. Refinement in order check logic could lead to lower override rates and increase practitioner acceptance and effectiveness of order checks.