Curbing Medication Administration Errors with Electronic Medication Systems

Medication errors constitute one of the principal sources of preventable patient harm in hospitals. While research has demonstrated that an electronic medication system (EMS) can be effective in reducing prescribing error rates, there is limited evidence of such systems improving medication administration error (MAE) rates.

Two bottles of prescription medications
Photo credit: Olga DeLawrence / Unsplash

In a new paper, PCHSS investigator Professor Johanna Westbrook and colleagues describe a study they undertook to address this question. “Changes in medication administration error rates associated with the introduction of electronic medication systems in hospitals: a multisite controlled before and after study”, published in BMJ Health & Care Informatics in August 2020, presents the first multisite, controlled study evaluating the effects of an EMS on MAE rates.

The researchers conducted a before and after study at two major adult teaching hospitals, with three wards receiving the intervention and three others serving as control wards. At baseline, 30.2% of administrations were found to have at least one clinical error, and 3.3% of errors were rated as potentially serious. The implementation of an EMS was associated with a 14% overall reduction in the MAE rate, with the greatest reduction observed in errors in the timing of medication administration. Moreover, the intervention wards experienced a 56% reduction in potentially serious errors, which suggests that EMSs can be effective in enhancing patient safety.

Subscribe to our newsletter