Nature of dispensing errors in selected hospitals providing free healthcare: a multi-center study in Sri Lanka
BMC Health Services Research
Background Dispensing errors, known to result in significant patient harm, are preventable if their nature is known and recognized. However, there is a scarcity of such data on dispensing errors particularly in resource poor settings, where healthcare is provided free-of-charge. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine the types, and prevalence of dispensing errors in a selected group of hospitals in Sri Lanka. Methods A prospective, cross sectional, multi-center study on
... study on dispensing errors was conducted, in a single tertiary care, and two secondary care hospitals, in a cohort of 420 patients attending medical, surgical, diabetic and pediatric clinics. The patients were selected according to the population size, through consecutive sampling. The prescription audit was conducted in terms of dispensing errors which were categorized as i) content, ii) labelling, iii) documentation, iv) concomitant, and v) other errors based on in-house developed definitions. Results A total of 420 prescriptions (1849 medicines) were analyzed (Hospital-I, 248 prescriptions-1010 medicines; Hospital-II, 84 prescriptions-400 medicines; Hospital-III, 88 prescriptions-439 medicines), and a cumulative total of 16,689 dispensing errors (at least one dispensing error in a prescription) were detected. Labelling errors were the most frequent dispensing error (63.1%; N = 10,523; Mostly missing information on the dispensing label), followed by concomitant prescribing and dispensing errors (20.5%; N = 3425; Missing prescribing information overlooked by the pharmacist), documentation errors (10.6%; N = 1772 Missing identification of pharmacist on dispensing label), clinically significant medication interactions overlooked by pharmacists (0.5%; N = 82), content errors (4.9%; N = 812; Discrepancies between medication dispensed and prescription order), medications dispensed in unsuitable packaging (0.4%; N = 74), and lastly medication dispensed to the wrong patient (0.01%; N = 1). Conclusions Dispensing errors are frequent in Sri Lankan hospitals which operate with limited resources and provide free healthcare to all citizenry. Over one half of the errors were labeling errors with minimal content errors. Awareness on common types of dispensing errors and emphasis on detecting them could improve medication safety in Sri Lankan hospitals.