Pattern of medication errors among inpatients in a resource-limited hospital setting

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Purpose of the study

There are limited studies on medication errors in South Asian and South East Asian regions. To bridge this gap, we assessed prescribing errors and selected medicine administration errors among inpatients, and the level of acknowledgement of prescribing errors by specialist physicians in a resource-limited hospital setting.

Study design

The study was conducted in two medical wards of a hospital in Sri Lanka. Prescribing errors were identified among medicines prescribed in the latest prescription of randomly selected inpatients. Medical notes, medication histories and clinic notes were information sources. Consistency of medicine administration according to prescribing instructions was assessed by matching prescriptions with medicine charts. The level of acknowledgement of prescribing errors by specialist physicians of study wards was assessed by questionnaire.


Prescriptions of 400 inpatients (2182 medicines) were analysed. There were 115 patients with at least one medication error. Among the 400 patients, 32.5% (n=130) were prescribing errors. The most frequent types of prescribing errors were ‘wrong frequency’ (10.3%, n=41), ‘prescribing duplications’ (10%, n=40), ‘prescribing unacceptable medicine combinations’ (6%, n=24) and ‘medicine omissions’ (4.3%, n=17). Medicine charts of 10 patients were inconsistent with prescribing instructions. Wrong medicine administration frequencies were common. The levels of acknowledgment of prescribing errors by the two specialist physicians were 75.5% and 90.9%, respectively.


Prescribing and medicine administration errors happen in resource-limited hospitals. Errors related to dosing regimen and failing to document medicines prescribed or administered to patients in their records were particularly high.

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