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LIU W, MANIAS E and GERDTZ M. Nursing Inquiry 2011; 18: 290–302 Understanding medication safety in healthcare settings: a critical review of conceptual modelsCommunication can impact on the way in which medications are managed across healthcare settings. Organisational cultures and the environmental context provide an added complexity to how communication occurs in practice. The aims of this paper are: to examine six models relating to medication safety in various hospital and community settings, to consider the strengths and limitations of each model and to explore their applications to medication safety practices. The models examined for their ability to address the complexity of the medication communication process include causal models, such as the Human Error Model and the System Analysis to Clinical Incidents Model, and exploratory models, such as the Shared Decision-Making Model, the Medication Decision-Making and Management Model, the Partnership Model and the Medication Communication Model. The Medication Communication Model provides particular insights into possible interactions between aspects that influence medication safety practices. The implications of all six models for healthcare practice and future research are also discussed.