Objective. Medication errors are common among pediatric patients and in emergency departments (EDs). Such errors may lead to prolonged hospitalization, unnecessary diagnostic tests and treatments, and death. The objective of this study was to determine whether the use of a structured order sheet reduces the incidence of medication errors in a pediatric ED.

Methods. The study was a randomized, controlled study that was conducted in a tertiary care pediatric hospital. Eighteen days were randomized into 2 study groups: days during which the regular blank order sheets were used and days during which preprinted, formatted, order sheets were used. All patients’ charts from these days were reviewed by 2 medical students, who extracted demographic, clinical, and therapeutic data into a database. Two pediatric emergency physicians, blinded to the form used, reviewed the database and independently decided whether an error had occurred and the severity of the error.

Results. Within the study period, there were 2157 visits to the ED. A total of 2058 (95.4%) charts were available for review. A total of 411 (52.2%) orders for drugs in the ED were ordered on the regular form, and 376 (47.8%) were given on the new form. Drug errors were identified in 68 (16.6%) orders when the regular form was used and in 37 (9.8%) of the orders on the new form. Using the new form was associated with a significant reduction in the risk for an error (odds ratio: 0.55; 95% confidence interval: 0.34–0.90).

Conclusions. The use of a preprinted structured order form significantly reduces medication errors among pediatric patients in the ED.

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