Changes in medication administration error rates associated with the introduction of electronic medication systems in hospitals

a multisite controlled before and after study

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Background: Electronic medication systems (EMS) have been highly effective in reducing prescribing errors, but little research has investigated their effects on medication administration errors (MAEs). OBJECTIVE: To assess changes in MAE rates and types associated with EMS implementation. Methos: This was a controlled before and after study (three intervention and three control wards) at two adult teaching hospitals. Intervention wards used an EMS with no bar-coding. Independent, trained observers shadowed nurses and recorded medications administered and compliance with 10 safety procedures. Observational data were compared against medication charts to identify errors (eg, wrong dose). Potential error severity was classified on a 5-point scale, with those scoring ≥3 identified as serious. Changes in MAE rates preintervention and postintervention by study group, accounting for differences at baseline, were calculated. Results: 7451 administrations were observed (4176 pre-EMS and 3275 post-EMS). At baseline, 30.2% of administrations contained ≥1 MAE, with wrong intravenous rate, timing, volume and dose the most frequent. Post-EMS, MAEs decreased on intervention wards relative to control wards by 4.2 errors per 100 administrations (95% CI 0.2 to 8.3; p=0.04). Wrong timing errors alone decreased by 3.4 per 100 administrations (95% CI 0.01 to 6.7; p<0.05). EMS use was associated with an absolute decline in potentially serious MAEs by 2.4% (95% CI 0.8 to 3.9; p=0.003), a 56% reduction in the proportion of potentially serious MAEs. At baseline, 74.1% of administrations were non-compliant with ≥1 of 10 procedures and this rate did not significantly improve post-EMS. Conclusions: Implementation of EMS was associated with a modest, but significant, reduction in overall MAE rate, but halved the proportion of MAEs rated as potentially serious.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere100170
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalBMJ Health and Care Informatics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2020. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • medical informatics
  • nursing
  • patient care
  • record systems

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