Severe and fatal medication errors in hospitals: Findings from the Norwegian Incident Reporting System

Mulac, A., Taxis, K., Hagesaether, E. & Gerd Granas, A., 23-Jun-2020, In : European Journal of Hospital Pharmacy: Science and Practice.

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  • Severe and fatal medication errors in hospitals: findings from the Norwegian Incident Reporting System

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BACKGROUND: Even with global efforts to prevent medication errors, they still occur and cause patient harm. Little systematic research has been done in Norway to address this issue.

OBJECTIVES: To describe the frequency, stage and types of medication errors in Norwegian hospitals, with emphasis on the most severe and fatal medication errors.

METHODS: Medication errors reported in 2016 and 2017 (n=3557) were obtained from the Norwegian Incident Reporting System, based on reports from 64 hospitals in 2016 and 55 in 2017. Reports contained categorical data (eg, patient age, incident date) and free text data describing the incident. The errors were classified by error type, stage in the medication process, therapeutic area and degree of harm, using a modified version of the WHO Conceptual Framework for the International Classification for Patient Safety.

RESULTS: Overall, 3372 reports were included in the study. Most medication errors occurred during administration (68%) and prescribing (24%). The leading types of errors were dosing errors (38%), omissions (23%) and wrong drug (15%). The therapeutic areas most commonly involved were analgesics, antibacterials and antithrombotics. Over half of all errors were harmful (62%), of which 5.2% caused severe harm, and 0.8% were fatal.

CONCLUSIONS: Medication errors most commonly occurred during medication administration. Dosing errors were the most common error type. The substantial number of severe and fatal errors causing preventable patient harm and death emphasises an urgent need for error-prevention strategies. Additional studies and interventions should further investigate the error-prone medication administration stage in hospitals and explore the dynamics of severe incidents.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Hospital Pharmacy: Science and Practice
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23-Jun-2020

ID: 128578602