Safety and efficiency of a new generic package labelling: a before and after study in a simulated setting

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Abstract

Background

Medication errors are frequent and may cause harm to patients and increase healthcare expenses.

Aim

To explore whether a new labelling influences time and errors when preparing medications in accordance with medication charts in an experimental setting.

Method

We carried out an uncontrolled before and after study with 3 months inbetween experiments. Phase I used original labelling and phase II used new generic labelling. We set up an experimental medicine room, simulating a real-life setting. Twenty-five nurses and ten pharmacy technicians participated in the study. We asked them to prepare medications in accordance with medication charts, place packages on a desk and document the package prepared. We timed the operation. Participants were asked to prepare medications in accordance with as many charts as possible within 30 min.

Results

Nurses prepared significantly more medication charts with the generic labelling compared with the original 3.3 versus 2.6 (p=0.009). Mean time per medication chart was significantly lower with the generic labelling 6.9 min/chart versus 8.5 min/chart (p<0.001). Pharmacy technicians were significantly faster than the nurses in both phase I (6.8 min/chart vs 9.5 min/chart; p<0.001) and phase II (6.1 min/chart vs 7.2 min/chart; p=0.013). The number of errors was low and not significantly different between the two labellings, with errors affecting 9.1% of charts in phase I versus 6.5% in phase II (p=0.5).

Conclusions

A new labelling of medication packages with prominent placement of the active substance(s) and strength(s) in the front of the medication package may reduce time for nurses when preparing medications, without increasing medication errors.

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