Journal Mobile

DJP Williams
Journal Issue: 
Volume 37: Issue 4: 2007




Medication  errors, broadly  defined  as  any  error  in  the  prescribing, dispensing, or administration of a drug, irrespective of whether such errors lead to adverse consequences or not, are the single most preventable cause of patient harm. Medication  errors  may  be  classified  according  to  the  stage  of  the
medication   use   cycle   in   which   they   occur   (prescribing,  dispensing,  or administration) although a recent classification of medication error into mistakes, slips, or  lapses  has  been  proposed.   Incidences  of  medication  error  rates  vary widely, as a result of the variety of different study methods and definitions used. The majority of medication errors occur as a result of poor prescribing and often involve relatively inexperienced medical staff, who are responsible for the majority of  prescribing  in  hospital.   Electronic  prescribing  may  help  reduce  the  risk  of prescribing errors owing to illegible handwriting, although such systems can in turn lead  to  further  problems  such  as  incorrect  drug  selection, and  their  effect  on patient outcomes requires further study.  A multidisciplinary approach to solving the  problem  of  medication  errors  is  required  which  adopts  an  attitude  of  ‘no blame’, since incident reports have often been used as instruments of punishment, thereby creating a fear of discipline. This fear may be lessened by creating an open and  safe  environment  for  detecting  and  reporting  medication  errors.   Current approaches to preventing medication errors are inadequate and require a shift in emphasis to a scientific investigation of preventable patient harm.