Determinants of patient-reported medication errors: a comparison among seven countries


  • C. Y. Lu,

    1. Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, MA, USA
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  • E. Roughead

    1. Quality Use of Medicines and Pharmacy Research Centre, School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, Sansom Institute, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia
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  • Disclosures None declared.

Christine Y. Lu, Postal Address: 133 Brookline Ave, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02215, USA
Tel.: 617 509 9989
Fax: 617 859 8112


Objective:  Medication errors are a frequent cause of adverse drug events and a major concern for patient safety. This study compared the predictors of error among seven countries (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and the Netherlands).

Methods:  We conducted a cross-sectional study using the 2007 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey data. The outcome was patient-reported error in the past 2 years. Possible predictors were studied using logistic regression.

Results:  Eleven thousand nine hundred and ten respondents were included in this analysis, of which 1291 respondents (11%) had experienced error. Poor coordination of care was a shared concern of all seven countries [adjusted odds ratios (ORs) ranged from 2.1 (95% CI: 1.3–3.5) to 3.0 (95% CI: 2.1–4.5)]. Cost-related barriers to medical services/medicines was also a predictor in six countries [ORs ranged from 1.9 (95% CI: 1.5–2.6) to 2.6 (95% CI: 1.5–4.6)]. Other common risk factors across countries included seeing multiple specialists, multiple chronic conditions, hospitalisation and multiple emergency room visits. Cross-country heterogeneity in contributing factors included age and specific chronic condition. Number of medications, number of doctor visits, household income and education level were not associated with error in most countries.

Conclusion:  Poor coordination of care is a key risk factor in all seven countries. Cost-related barriers were also associated with an increased likelihood of error. The major challenge for all countries for error prevention is better communication among multiple healthcare providers and more structured organisation of care across healthcare settings.