Background: Poor quality prescribing has been identified as one of the leading causes of medication error and adverse drug events. The aim of this study was to improve the quality of written prescriptions in a general hospital by a combination of serial audits and interventions designed to address identified deficiencies.
Methods: Inpatient medication charts were audited annually from 1998 to 2007. Charts were assessed against predetermined standards for good-quality prescribing.
Results: Initially an unacceptable proportion of medication charts failed to document adequately one or more of the following: prescriber identification (58%), legible prescriptions (14%), route of administration (14%), a dose (11%), date (11%) or adequate patient identification (8%). Only 53% of charts had any information about medication alerts and 15% contained at least one verbal order. Interventions designed to address these deficiencies included educational strategies (e.g. feedback of audit results, education sessions for doctors and nurses on prescribing and medication errors) and changes to systems (e.g. modifications to medication charts, development of hospital wide prescribing standards and an alert notification system). Serial audits showed progressive improvements in all items by 2007 including; legibility (97%), patient identification (100%), documentation of date (98%), drug dose (99%) and route (97%), use of medication alerts (98%) and the prevalence of verbal orders (<1%). Identification of prescribers remained suboptimal (81% in 2006, 53% in 2007).
Conclusion: Serial audits of the quality of prescribing on hospital medication charts can rapidly identify the extent of deficiencies in prescribing practice, facilitate interventions specifically designed to address these and monitor their influence.