Skip to main content

Table 4 Types of errors: Prescription errors: Australian hospitals 1985–2007

From: Medication safety in acute care in Australia: where are we now? Part 1: a review of the extent and causes of medication problems 2002–2008

Reference Number of prescriptions or charts audited No. of errors detected (rate) Major findings
Discharge prescriptions
Coombes et al. 2004 [15] 605 medications on 100 hand written prescriptions 30 (5.0% of medications) The most common types of errors were omissions (2.6%) and dosing errors (0.8%).
Coombes et al. 2004 [15] 700 medications on 100 computer generated prescriptions 81 errors (11.6% of medications) The most common types of errors were dosing errors (3.6%), duration errors (1.9%), medication not required on discharge (2.1%) and omissions (1.7%).
Inpatient and discharge prescriptions from medical and surgical wards assessed
Coombes et al., 2001 [49] 2978 prescriptions 71 (2.4%)errors with potential to cause an ADE The most common error types found were wrong or ambiguous dose (1.0% of prescriptions), dose absent from prescription (0.6% of prescriptions), frequency absent from prescription (0.4% of prescriptions*)
Medication charts in a paediatric department assessed
Dawson et al., 1993 [50] 212 medication charts# 52 major errors** (24.5% of med'n charts) The most common error types were dose errors (12.3% of charts reviewed), error of administration frequency (5.7% of charts reviewed), error of administration route (5.2% of charts reviewed), error in drug name/formulation (1.4% of charts reviewed).
Dawson et al., 1993 [50] 325 medication charts# 35 major errors** (10.8% of med'n charts) The most common error types were dose errors (4.9% of charts reviewed), error of administration route (2.5% of charts reviewed), error of administration frequency (1.8% of charts reviewed), error in drug name/formulation (1.5% of charts reviewed).
Errors in medical, surgical, children's wards and a critical care unit assessed
Leversha, 1991 [51] 6641 medication chart checks 241 (3.6% of chart checks) Prescribing errors detected were incorrect dose (1.2% of chart checks), no strength specified (1.0%), insufficient information (0.2%). It was also found that failure to record the patient's current (ongoing) medication on the chart occurred in 69 cases (1.0% of chart checks)
Prescriptions presenting to pharmacy department assessed
Fry et al., 1985 [52] 10 562 prescriptions 574 (5.4%), Included assessment of legal requirements, (eg patient name and address, doctor's signature) as well as clinical requirements (eg dose, frequency,) The strength was missing or incorrect in 0.7%, the directions inappropriate or omitted in 0.4%, and the wrong drug in 0.06%.
  1. * Percentage of prescriptions for regular and 'as required" medications only; ** Major errors included errors in drug name, dose, formulation, route or frequency of administration; #Note: unit of analysis is medication chart, which may include one or more prescriptions.