Medication delivery is a complex process which provides numerous opportunities for error occurrence. While the community environment presents a unique potential for medication errors, to date, an exploration of these errors had not been conducted.
The overall objective of the review was to identify the incidence, prevalence and contributing factors associated with the occurrence of medication errors for children and adults in the community setting.
Types of participants
Studies involving children and adults from the community setting.
Focus of the review
In this review we considered studies that evaluate the incidence, prevalence and contributing factors associated with the occurrence of medication errors in the community setting for both children and adults.
Types of studies
In this review we considered any randomised controlled trials, non-randomised controlled trials, controlled before and after studies, other designs such as cohort, case control studies and descriptive studies.
Papers in English between the years 1990-2011 were searched in various scholarly databases, including: CINAHL, Medline, Mosby's Nursing Consult, PsycINFO, and Web of Science.
Full papers were assessed for methodological quality independently by two reviewers using critical appraisal checklists from the Joanna Briggs Institute.
Details of each study included in the review were extracted using an adaptation of the standardised data extraction forms developed by the Joanna Briggs Institute.
Meta-analysis was not possible due to methodological and statistical heterogeneity of the included studies. Hence study findings are presented in narrative form.
Twenty-one studies were included in the final review. Thirteen studies examined either incidence or prevalence. Ten studies identified contributing factors and five studies reported the frequency of errors.
This study provides the first systematic review of medication error occurrence for children and adults in the community. Evidence emerging for this review highlighted the incomparability within the included studies and current research and thus the inability to make recommendations to advance the science.
Implications for practice
Commonly reported causal factors were dosing errors, misreading prescriptions and calculation errors. Therefore, it is recommended that adequate education is provided to ensure that healthcare providers are well equipped to perform the tasks involved in medication delivery. Further recommendations include: 1) ensure workloads within the community setting support safe and reasonable assignments; 2) reinforce communication protocols between healthcare providers and patients regarding medication delivery; and 3) separate and identify look alike and sound alike medications.
Implications for research
For the science in this area to advance, there is a need for standardization on how outcomes are identified and measured within each stage. Therefore, it is recommended that common conceptualizations for these terms be established or agreed upon and a valid tracking system is in place in the community.