Background and objective: Medication errors are an important cause of hospital-based morbidity and mortality. However, only a few medication error studies have been conducted in children. These have mainly quantified errors in the inpatient setting; there is very little data available on paediatric outpatient and emergency department medication errors and none on discharge medication. This deficiency is of concern because medication errors are more common in children and it has been suggested that the risk of an adverse drug event as a consequence of a medication error is higher in children than in adults. Objective: The aims of this study were to assess the rate of medication errors in predominantly ambulatory paediatric patients and the effect of computer calculated doses on medication error rates of two commonly prescribed drugs. Methods: This was a prospective cohort study performed in a paediatric unit in a university teaching hospital between March 2003 and August 2003. The hospital's existing computer clinical decision support system was modified so that doctors could choose the traditional prescription method or the enhanced method of computer calculated dose when prescribing paracetamol (acetaminophen) or promethazine. All prescriptions issued to children (<16 years of age) at the outpatient clinic, emergency department and at discharge from the inpatient service were analysed. A medication error was defined as to have occurred if there was an underdose (below the agreed value), an overdose (above the agreed value), no frequency of administration specified, no dose given or excessive total daily dose. The medication error rates and the factors influencing medication error rates were determined using SPSS version 12. Results: From March to August 2003, 4281 prescriptions were issued. Seven prescriptions (0.16%) were excluded, hence 4274 prescriptions were analysed. Most prescriptions were issued by paediatricians (including neonatologists and paediatric surgeons) and/or junior doctors. The error rate in the children's emergency department was 15.7%, for outpatients was 21.5% and for discharge medication was 23.6%. Most errors were the result of an underdose (64%; 536/833). The computer calculated dose error rate was 12.6% compared with the traditional prescription error rate of 28.2%. Logistical regression analysis showed that computer calculated dose was an important and independent variable influencing the error rate (adjusted relative risk = 0.436, 95% CI 0.336, 0.520, p < 0.001). Other important independent variables were seniority and paediatric training of the person prescribing and the type of drug prescribed. Conclusions: Medication error, especially underdose, is common in outpatient, emergency department and discharge prescriptions. Computer calculated doses can significantly reduce errors, but other risk factors have to be concurrently addressed to achieve maximum benefit.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pharmacology (medical)