Hospital medication errors: a cross-sectional study

Anton N. Isaacs, Kenneth Ch'ng, Naaz Delhiwale, Kieran Taylor, Bethany Kent, Anita Raymond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Medication errors (MEs) are among the most common types of incidents reported in Australian and international hospitals. There is no uniform method of reporting and reducing these errors. This study aims to identify the incidence, time trends, types and factors associated with MEs
in a large regional hospital in Australia.

Methods: A 5-year cross-sectional study.

Results: The incidence of MEs was 1.05 per 100 admitted patients. The highest frequency of errors was observed during the colder months of May–August. When distributed by day of the week, Mondays and Tuesdays had the highest frequency of errors. When distributed by hour of the day, time intervals from 7 am to 8 am and from 7 pm to 8 pm showed a sharp increase in the frequency of errors. One thousand and eighty-eight (57.8%) MEs belonged to incidence severity rating (ISR)
level 4 and 787 (41.8%) belonged to ISR level 3. There were six incidents of ISR level 2 and only one incident of ISR level 1 reported during the five-year period 2014-2018. Administration-only errors were the most common accounting for 1070 (56.8%) followed by prescribing-only errors (433, 23%). High-risk medications were associated with half the number of errors, the most common of which were narcotics (17.9%) and antimicrobials (13.2%).

Conclusions: MEs continue to be a problem faced by international hospitals. Inexperience of health professionals and nurse–patient ratios might be the fundamental challenges to overcome. Specific training of junior staff in prescribing and administering medication and nurse workload
management could be possible solutions to reducing MEs in hospitals.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbermzaa136
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal for Quality in Health Care
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 16 Oct 2020


  • medication errors/nursing
  • medication errors/prevention and control
  • incident reporting
  • medication administration errors
  • crew resource management
  • healthcare
  • patient safety

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