Peer Reviewed
Feature Article Pharmacology and therapeutics
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Strategies to reduce medication errors

Sarah N Hilmer

Medication errors are common throughout the medication management process and may result in serious adverse drug reactions, particularly in older patients with polypharmacy. Constant vigilance and review, and improved communication with other healthcare practitioners and with patients may reduce errors.

Key Points
  • Medication errors are very common throughout the medication use process; a small proportion of errors cause clinically significant adverse drug events.
  • Most medication errors occur in older people exposed to polypharmacy, who are very susceptible to adverse drug events. GPs can significantly reduce medication errors by regular medication review, and rationalising and simplifying medication regimens.
  • Communication between healthcare practitioners and between healthcare practitioners and patients is critical to reduce medication errors.
  • Medication reconciliation (i.e. verifying the patient’s medication history, checking that the medicines are appropriate for the patient and reconciling any discrepancies) is particularly useful at high-risk times such as transitions between the acute sector and the community, or on admission to a residential aged care facility.
  • Innovations in electronic medication management at all stages of the medication use process can reduce some errors but may introduce others.

    Picture credit: © Zolnierek/

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