Pilot of a National Inpatient Medication Chart in Australia: improving prescribing safety and enabling prescribing training

Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2011 Aug;72(2):338-49. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2011.03967.x.


What is already known about this subject: Prescribing errors are common and are caused by multiple factors. Standard medication charts have been recommended by British and Australian Health services. A study of a standard medication chart in five hospitals in one state of Australia significantly reduced prescribing errors.

What this study adds: A standard medication chart developed in one area can be adopted through a collaborative process and successfully implemented across a diverse country resulting in similar reductions in prescribing errors. Three of the four stages of the prescribing process (information gathering, decision making and communication of instructions) can be improved by the use of an improved standard medication chart. The introduction of a standard medication chart has enabled development of standard prescribing education programmes.

Aims: To establish whether a standard national inpatient medication chart (NIMC) could be implemented across a range of sites in Australia and reduce frequency of prescribing errors and improve the completion of adverse drug reaction (ADR) and warfarin documentation.

Methods: A medication chart, which had previously been implemented in one state, was piloted in 22 public hospitals across Australia. Prospective before and after observational audits of prescribing errors were undertaken by trained nurse and pharmacist teams. The introduction of the chart was accompanied by local education of prescribers and presentation of baseline audit findings. RESULTS After the introduction of the NIMC, prescribing errors decreased by almost one-third, from 6383 errors in 15,557 orders, a median (range) of 3 (0-48) per patient to 4293 in 15,416 orders, 2 (0-45) per patient (Wilcoxon Rank Sum test, P < 0.001). The documentation of drugs causing previous ADRs increased significantly from 81.9% to 88.9% of drugs (χ(2) test, P < 0.001). The documentation of the indication for warfarin increased from 12.1 to 34.3% (χ(2) test, P= 0.001) and the documentation of target INR increased from 10.8 to 70.0% (χ(2) test, P < 0.001) after implementation of the chart.

Conclusions: National implementation of a standard medication chart is possible. Similar reduction in the rate of prescribing errors can be achieved in multiple sites across one country. The consequent benefits for patient care and training of staff could be significant.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Drug Prescriptions / standards
  • Forms and Records Control / standards*
  • Hospitals, Teaching / standards
  • Humans
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control*
  • Medication Systems, Hospital / standards*
  • National Health Programs*
  • Pharmacy Service, Hospital / standards*
  • Pilot Projects