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Medication errors in critical care: Risk factors and prevention

April 27, 2009

Medication errors account for 78% of serious medical errors in the intensive care unit (ICU) but there are strategies that can help reduce errors and improve patient safety, write a team of Calgary researchers in an article in CMAJ (www.cmaj.ca).

For example, it takes 80-100 correctly executed steps to administer 1 dose of a single medication to a critically ill patient in the ICU.

Strategies to prevent medication errors include eliminating extended physician work schedules, computerizing orders and intravenous devices, having pharmacists participate in the ICU, reconciling medications upon admission to or discharge from the ICU, and maintaining detailed, up-to-date medication lists.

"Given the large body of patient safety literature, the limited evidence available to guide clinicians in selecting strategies to prevent and disclose medication errors in critically ill patients is surprising," write Dr. Stelfox and coauthors from the University of Calgary. "Nevertheless, patient safety is a first step in providing high-quality health care, and ensuring the safety of patients is everyone's responsibility and challenge."
-end-


Canadian Medical Association Journal

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