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Medication errors

Medication errors account for a high level of complaints, claims and patient safety incidents.

Some causes of medication errors:

  • Wrong name
  • Wrong drug
  • Wrong dose
  • Wrong frequency
  • Wrong supply
Write legibly, taking special care if the drug name could easily be confused with another

When writing prescriptions

  • Be sure that the treatment is indicated.
  • Check that the intended drug is not contraindicated and that the patient does not have a history of adverse reactions to it.
  • Ensure that it will not interact with the patient’s other medication and warn the patient about any potential interactions with over-the-counter medicines.
  • Write legibly, taking special care if the drug name could easily be confused with another – use capital letters and give the generic rather than trade name.
  • If you’re not sure which of two similar sounding drugs you should be prescribing, check with a senior colleague and confirm the correct spelling in a national formulary.
  • Write clear and unambiguous instructions for dosage, frequency and route of administration, avoiding abbreviations and leading decimal points (put a zero in front of it, eg, 0.2mg).
  • Note the prescription and any other relevant information (eg, warnings given to the patient) in the medical record.
  • Ensure that the patient is aware of what is being prescribed, and why.
  • Use patient information leaflets to augment your verbal instructions, and be particularly careful to warn patients about possible side-effects, adverse drug interactions (including herbal medicines), or potentially dangerous activities, such as driving while taking drugs that induce drowsiness.