Electronic Tool Helps Reduce Drug Errors Among Hospitalized Children

May 5, 2014
Having a system in place at hospital admission to record and review a child's medication history results in fewer errors, potentially avoiding harm to the patient, according to a study to be presented Monday, May 5, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Having a system in place at hospital admission to record and review a child's medication history results in fewer errors, potentially avoiding harm to the patient, according to a study to be presented Monday, May 5, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Jonathan D. Hron, M.D., a pediatric hospitalist at Boston Children's Hospital and an instructor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, led a team that implemented a quality improvement project that focused on reducing medication errors due to breakdowns at hospital admission. A group of physicians, pharmacists, nurses and information technology specialists worked together to test, implement and train clinicians to use a tool, which facilitates review of a patient's complete medication history when the child is admitted to the hospital.

The tool, which is part of the hospital's electronic health record system, was piloted in one area of the hospital and gradually was expanded to the entire hospital. “We successfully implemented the medication reconciliation application throughout the hospital, changing the practice of our entire staff,” Dr. Hron said in a prepared statement.

Using an existing voluntary error reporting tool, Dr. Hron and his colleagues then looked at the number of medication errors that occurred before and after implementation of the electronic tool.

About 33,000 children were admitted to Boston Children's Hospital during the study period, and the medication reconciliation tool was used for 75 percent of admissions after the intervention. The recording of medication history improved from 89 percent of admissions before the tool was implemented to 93 percent of admissions afterward. During the study, 146 medications errors due to missing or incorrect information at admission were detected. The error rate decreased by about 50 percent after hospital staff starting using the tool — from 5.9 errors per 1,000 admissions to 2.5 errors per 1,000 admissions. Most of the errors did not harm patients, while 1 percent required additional monitoring or intervention but did not cause permanent harm.

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