Prevalence of medication administration errors in two medical units with automated prescription and dispensing [Article]

From the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association1. I was a little shocked by the number of errors, but as you can see in the abstract below, and in the title, the errors were during the administration phase of the medication use process. Seems a bit odd to look at medication errors during administration when talking about automated prescribing and dispensing. I’m sure there is an explanation in the full article. However that requires a subscription. Interesting nonetheless:

Abstract
Objective
To identify the frequency of medication administration errors and their potential risk factors in units using a computerized prescription order entry program and profiled automated dispensing cabinets.

Design Prospective observational study conducted within two clinical units of the Gastroenterology Department in a 1537-bed tertiary teaching hospital in Madrid (Spain).

Measurements Medication errors were measured using the disguised observation technique. Types of medication errors and their potential severity were described. The correlation between potential risk factors and medication errors was studied to identify potential causes.

Results In total, 2314 medication administrations to 73 patients were observed: 509 errors were recorded (22.0%)—68 (13.4%) in preparation and 441 (86.6%) in administration. The most frequent errors were use of wrong administration techniques (especially concerning food intake (13.9%)), wrong reconstitution/dilution (1.7%), omission (1.4%), and wrong infusion speed (1.2%). Errors were classified as no damage (95.7%), no damage but monitoring required (2.3%), and temporary damage (0.4%). Potential clinical severity could not be assessed in 1.6% of cases. The potential risk factors morning shift, evening shift, Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical medication class antacids, prokinetics, antibiotics and immunosuppressants, oral administration, and intravenous administration were associated with a higher risk of administration errors. No association was found with variables related to understaffing or nurse’s experience.

Conclusions Medication administration errors persist in units with automated prescription and dispensing. We identified a need to improve nurses’ working procedures and to implement a Clinical Decision Support tool that generates recommendations about scheduling according to dietary restrictions, preparation of medication before parenteral administration, and adequate infusion rates.

1. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2012 Jan 1;19(1):72-8. Epub 2011 Sep 2.

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