Systems Problems Among Roots of Tech-Related Medication Errors

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Of the medication errors related to technology use, many spring from user-related errors, according to the results of a study from the University of Hong Kong published in the International Journal of Medical Informatics.

A pharmacist analyzed medication incidents reported between 2006 and 2010 at a tertiary care hospital to identify technology related medication errors for the study. The errors were then classified as device errors and user errors.

Of the 1538 medication incidents identified, 17.1% were technology related, researchers reported. Most of the errors (98.1%) were user related, and included problems with prescription order entry into hospital computers, patient identification bar codes, infusion pump use, and computer-aided dispensing label generation.

Detection after medication was administered occurred in only 11.4% of cases, researchers noted. Problems using computer systems were the cause for 68.1% of technology-related errors. Improper procedures accounted for 22.1% of errors.

Researchers compiled data from medication incident reports, which represent only a portion of all errors. The study authors recommend improving medication systems, awareness, training, and monitoring to reduce problems.