Safe prescribing: a titanic challenge

Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2012 Oct;74(4):676-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2012.04367.x.

Abstract

The challenge to achieve safe prescribing merits the adjective 'titanic'. The organisational and human errors leading to poor prescribing (e.g. underprescribing, overprescribing, misprescribing or medication errors) have parallels in the organisational and human errors that led to the loss of the Titanic 100 years ago this year. Prescribing can be adversely affected by communication failures, critical conditions, complacency, corner cutting, callowness and a lack of courage of conviction, all of which were also factors leading to the Titanic tragedy. These issues need to be addressed by a commitment to excellence, the final component of the 'Seven C's'. Optimal prescribing is dependent upon close communication and collaborative working between highly trained health professionals, whose role is to ensure maximum clinical effectiveness, whilst also protecting their patients from avoidable harm. Since humans are prone to error, and the environments in which they work are imperfect, it is not surprising that medication errors are common, occurring more often during the prescribing stage than during dispensing or administration. A commitment to excellence in prescribing includes a continued focus on lifelong learning (including interprofessional learning) in pharmacology and therapeutics. This should be accompanied by improvements in the clinical working environment of prescribers, and the encouragement of a strong safety culture (including reporting of adverse incidents as well as suspected adverse drug reactions whenever appropriate). Finally, members of the clinical team must be prepared to challenge each other, when necessary, to ensure that prescribing combines the highest likelihood of benefit with the lowest potential for harm.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Drug Prescriptions / standards*
  • Humans
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control*
  • Patient Safety