This site is intended for Healthcare Professionals only

Medicine errors would fall 40 per cent with easier data transfer


Medicine errors would fall 40 per cent with easier data transfer

A quick and efficient digital transfer of information about patients’ medicines between pharmacists and GPs would result in 40 per cent less medication errors when people go into or leave hospital, according to researchers at the University of Manchester.

The NHS-commissioned study found that errors would reduce from 1.8 million to 1.1 million if information “could be shared more easily electronically” while the number of patients experiencing errors would fall from 370,000 to 220,000.

Lead researcher professor Rachel Elliott said an “effective way of avoiding” errors was pharmacists' creation of a “best possible medication history” by speaking to patients, their families, GPs and looking at their medical records. That, she said, prevents over 80 per cent of medication errors.

But she insisted "it would be easier to find the correct information about a patient’s medicines" if those records shared "information electronically."

“This would reduce time spent finding out what medicines someone should be taking, and further reduce the number of errors," she said. 

The UoM said 12,000 fewer people would experience harm from their medicines and 14,000 less days would be spent in hospital, generating around £6.6 million in savings.

The university had previously estimated that 237 million medication errors occur at some point in the medication process in England each year at a cost of £98 million annually to the NHS. That takes up 181,626 hospital bed days and leads to 1,708 deaths.

The researchers focused on four transfer settings; primary to secondary care; secondary to primary care; intra-hospital transition where there is transfer from one electronic prescribing system to another; and inter-hospital transfer.

They used published evidence, including studies from 2000 to 2022 from nine databases as well as five journals, while input from stakeholders and experts was also used to calculate the prevalence, patient harm and cost of transition medication errors.

The university said that by “using data from published research and talking to experts,” its research team “identified how many transition medication errors happen every year in England and the avoidable harms to patients and costs to the NHS."

They then calculated how errors, avoidable harm and cost would be impacted by new standards introduced by NHS England to improve the transfer of digital information and get IT systems in healthcare to “talk” to each other.

The study found commonly erroneously duplicated medicines that have “significant potential for harm if associated with a medication error” include amlodipine, furosemide, bisoprolol, senna, insulin, metformin, alprazolam and morphine.

It said 31,236 people experience harm from a transition medication error over 12 months and 52 per cent of those are a result of admission errors. Those errors result in 36,099 additional bed days of in-patient care, costing around £17.43 million a year and 44 people are estimated to die as a result of those errors.

“When people are admitted to, or discharged from hospital, it is important that they, their families and people involved in their care, have the right information about their medicines. But sometimes medicines may be missed off the list, extra ones added, or wrong doses written down,” said professor Elliott.

“These medication discrepancies or transition medication errors are so common worldwide in healthcare, the World Health Organisation has made it a priority for health services to find ways to reduce them.”



Copy Link copy link button