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Most Common Prescribing Errors in Urban Emergency Department Identified

January 31, 2020

Incorrect or missing prescriber information was the most common prescribing error identified in a recent analysis involving a large inner-city emergency department. The study was published online in the journal Emergency Nurse. 

“On their discharge from the emergency department, many patients are given a prescription form to obtain medicines from their local community pharmacist,” wrote researcher Johnathan George, advanced nurse practitioner, emergency unit, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, Cardiff, Wales. “On the identification of a prescribing error, the patient is sent back to the emergency department because the medicine cannot be dispensed.”

The study looked at prescriptions returned to an emergency department in South Wales over a 6-week period in 2016 to identify problems in prescribing.

Among 322 emergency department patients discharged home with a prescription, 6% had errors in their prescriptions that prevented community pharmacists from dispensing medications. The low rate, the study noted, was consistent with the literature on emergency department prescribing errors.  

The most common mistake involved incorrect or missing information about the prescriber on the prescribing form.

“Common prescribing errors could be mitigated,” the study concluded, “through the introduction of electronic prescribing in the emergency department.”

Jolynn Tumolo


George J. Exploring the common prescribing errors that occur in the emergency department [published online ahead of print, 2020 Jan 28]. Emerg Nurse. 2020;10.7748/en.2020.e1975. doi:10.7748/en.2020.e1975

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