Objectives To identify actions to reduce medication errors in the process of drug prescription, validation and dispensing, and to evaluate the impact of their implementation.
Methods A Health Care Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (HFMEA) was supported by a before-and-after medication error study to measure the actual impact on error rate after the implementation of corrective actions in the process of drug prescription, validation and dispensing in wards equipped with computerised physician order entry (CPOE) and unit-dose distribution system (788 beds out of 1080) in a Spanish university hospital. The error study was carried out by two observers who reviewed medication orders on a daily basis to register prescription errors by physicians and validation errors by pharmacists. Drugs dispensed in the unit-dose trolleys were reviewed for dispensing errors. Error rates were expressed as the number of errors for each process divided by the total opportunities for error in that process times 100.
Results A reduction in prescription errors was achieved by providing training for prescribers on CPOE, updating prescription procedures, improving clinical decision support and automating the software connection to the hospital census (relative risk reduction (RRR), 22.0%; 95% CI 12.1% to 31.8%). Validation errors were reduced after optimising time spent in educating pharmacy residents on patient safety, developing standardised validation procedures and improving aspects of the software's database (RRR, 19.4%; 95% CI 2.3% to 36.5%). Two actions reduced dispensing errors: reorganising the process of filling trolleys and drawing up a protocol for drug pharmacy checking before delivery (RRR, 38.5%; 95% CI 14.1% to 62.9%).
Conclusions HFMEA facilitated the identification of actions aimed at reducing medication errors in a healthcare setting, as the implementation of several of these led to a reduction in errors in the process of drug prescription, validation and dispensing.
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