Evidence of frequent dosing errors in paediatrics and intervention to reduce such prescribing errors
What is known and objective
Drug prescribing is an essential part of inpatient care, and prescription errors/omissions have the potential to lead to disastrous consequences. Paediatric inpatient prescribing is particularly sensitive to error due to the weight-adjusted dosing of many medications prescribed in the acute setting. Previous studies have described a high incidence of error in adult drug chart completion, although no studies to date have assessed the error seen in the paediatric setting or accuracy of weight-adjusted dosing. Our objective was to determine the degree of error seen in paediatric drug prescribing for patients admitted under the care of oral and maxillofacial surgery and to explore practical and accessible methods through which error can be reduced.
We retrospectively evaluated inpatient drug charts to assess the prescribing practices seen for patients admitted under the care of oral and maxillofacial surgery in an NHS children's hospital and compared these findings against established hospital standards. The study also examined the distribution and variability of weight-adjusted dose prescribing in an attempt to set targets for auditing improvements following the implementation of changes.
Results and discussion
Prescriptions were completed by a combination of doctors from maxillofacial and anaesthetic teams, with similar error rates seen in both specialties. 13% of drug charts contained one or more errors in frequency prescribing. For weight-adjusted drugs, a median under-dosage of −5·4% was noted, with an IQR of −12 to −0·6. Our study has confirmed that errors are common both in the manual completion of paediatric prescription charts and in the calculation of weight-adjusted doses.
What is new and conclusion
We conclude that inaccuracies in prescription chart completion are a frequent occurrence and that dosage and frequency-prescribing errors may potentially act synergistically to create a significant disparity between the recommended and actual amount of drug that is delivered. Our study demonstrates a clear bias towards under-prescribing weight-adjusted doses which may be contributing to reduced efficacy of analgesia, among other drugs. Simple methods can be implemented on a specialty basis to improve the accuracy of both drug chart completion and weight-adjusted dosing.