Effect of pharmacists on medication errors in an emergency department

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American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy

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Purpose. The frequency of medication errors in an emergency department (ED) before and after an ED pharmacist was assigned to check medication orders was studied.

Methods. A retrospective chart review was conducted for any patient admitted to the ED of a large rural hospital between November 6, 2005, and December 6, 2005 (control group), or between November 6, 2006, and December 6, 2006 (intervention group). For the control group, no pharmacist was present in the ED to check drug orders; for the intervention group, a pharmacist was present. Potential errors in medication orders were identified and validated.

Results. A total of 490 medication orders written for 198 patients were evaluated for errors. The control group (n = 94) and the intervention group (n = 104) did not differ significantly with respect to age, sex, race, or number of medication orders. A total of 37 and 14 medication errors were identified for the control and intervention groups, respectively. The rate of errors was 16.09 per 100 medication orders for the control group compared with 5.38 per 100 orders for the intervention group, a 66.6% difference (p = 0.0001). The ED pharmacists made 183 recommendations, of which 98.6% were accepted.

Conclusion. The rate of medication errors in the ED decreased significantly when pharmacists prospectively reviewed ED medication orders.