Medication errors cause appreciable morbidity and mortality in children. The objective was to determine the effectiveness of interventions to reduce pediatric medication errors, identify gaps in the literature, and perform meta-analyses on comparable studies.
Relevant studies were identified from searches of PubMed, Embase, Scopus, Web of Science, the Cochrane Library, and the Cumulative Index to Nursing Allied Health Literature and previous systematic reviews. Inclusion criteria were peer-reviewed original data in any language testing an intervention to reduce medication errors in children. Abstract and full-text article review were conducted by 2 independent authors with sequential data extraction.
A total of 274 full-text articles were reviewed and 63 were included. Only 1% of studies were conducted at community hospitals, 11% were conducted in ambulatory populations, 10% reported preventable adverse drug events, 10% examined administering errors, 3% examined dispensing errors, and none reported cost-effectiveness data, suggesting persistent research gaps. Variation existed in the methods, definitions, outcomes, and rate denominators for all studies; and many showed an appreciable risk of bias. Although 26 studies (41%) involved computerized provider order entry, a meta-analysis was not performed because of methodologic heterogeneity. Studies of computerized provider order entry with clinical decision support compared with studies without clinical decision support reported a 36% to 87% reduction in prescribing errors; studies of preprinted order sheets revealed a 27% to 82% reduction in prescribing errors.
Pediatric medication errors can be reduced, although our understanding of optimal interventions remains hampered. Research should focus on understudied areas, use standardized definitions and outcomes, and evaluate cost-effectiveness.