Medication errors usually not serious, report finds

While medication errors are common in skilled care settings, their negative impact on residents is “surprisingly” low, a new study finds.

Australian researchers recently attempted to determine how often such errors result in hospital admissions and deaths, and to identify the factors that might lead to such errors. They did this by conducting literature search of relevant studies published between 2000 and 2015.

They found that medication errors were common, involving 16% to 27% of residents in studies examining all types of medication errors. Transfer-related medication errors took place among 13% to 31% of residents, while 75% of residents were prescribed at least one potentially inappropriate medication.

Yet the serious impacts of medication errors happened less than 1% of the time. The investigators noted that it remains unclear whether medication errors resulting in serious outcomes are truly infrequent or are under-reported due to the difficulty in ascertaining them.

“Good practice requires using a team-based approach involving the resident, care and nursing staff, pharmacists and medical practitioners,” said study author Professor Joseph Ibrahim, from Monash University.

Full findings appear in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.