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How Many Hospital Pharmacy Medication Dispensing Errors Go Undetected?

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Abstract:

Background: Hospital pharmacies dispense large numbers of medication doses for hospitalized patients. A study was conducted at an academic tertiary care hospital to characterize the incidence and severity of medication dispensing errors in a hospital pharmacy.

Methods: Direct observation of dispensing processes was undertaken to determine presence of errors with review by a physician panel to determine severity.

Results: A total of 140,755 medication doses filled by pharmacy technicians were observed during a seven-month period, and 3.6% (5,075) contained errors. The hospital pharmacist detected only 79% of these errors during routine verification; thus, 0.75% of doses filled would have left the pharmacy with undetected errors. Overall, 23.5% of undetected errors were potential adverse drug events (ADEs), of which 28% were serious and 0.8% were life threatening. The most common potential ADEs were incorrect medications (36%), incorrect strength (35%), and incorrect dosage form (21%).

Discussion: Given the volume of medications dispensed, even a low rate of drug distribution process translates into a large number of errors with potential to harm patients. Pharmacy distribution systems require further process redesign to achieve the highest possible level of safety and reliability.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-02-01

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  • The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety will be published by Elsevier beginning in 2017! For readers who receive access to the journal through their institutions, the journal can now be found on ScienceDirect (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/15537250). For librarians looking to subscribe to the journal for their institutions please contact your Elsevier Account Manager or visit www.myelsevier.com for more information. All other readers, please visit http://www.jointcommissionjournal.com/ to subscribe to the journal or to claim your access for an existing subscription.
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