Feedback on prescribing errors to junior doctors: exploring views, problems and preferred methods

Int J Clin Pharm. 2013 Jun;35(3):332-8. doi: 10.1007/s11096-013-9759-y. Epub 2013 Mar 10.


Background: Prescribing errors are common in hospital inpatients. However, the literature suggests that doctors are often unaware of their errors as they are not always informed of them. It has been suggested that providing more feedback to prescribers may reduce subsequent error rates. Only few studies have investigated the views of prescribers towards receiving such feedback, or the views of hospital pharmacists as potential feedback providers.

Objectives: Our aim was to explore the views of junior doctors and hospital pharmacists regarding feedback on individual doctors' prescribing errors. Objectives were to determine how feedback was currently provided and any associated problems, to explore views on other approaches to feedback, and to make recommendations for designing suitable feedback systems.

Setting: A large London NHS hospital trust.

Methods: To explore views on current and possible feedback mechanisms, self-administered questionnaires were given to all junior doctors and pharmacists, combining both 5-point Likert scale statements and open-ended questions.

Main outcome measures: Agreement scores for statements regarding perceived prescribing error rates, opinions on feedback, barriers to feedback, and preferences for future practice.

Results: Response rates were 49% (37/75) for junior doctors and 57% (57/100) for pharmacists. In general, doctors did not feel threatened by feedback on their prescribing errors. They felt that feedback currently provided was constructive but often irregular and insufficient. Most pharmacists provided feedback in various ways; however some did not or were inconsistent. They were willing to provide more feedback, but did not feel it was always effective or feasible due to barriers such as communication problems and time constraints. Both professional groups preferred individual feedback with additional regular generic feedback on common or serious errors.

Conclusion: Feedback on prescribing errors was valued and acceptable to both professional groups. From the results, several suggested methods of providing feedback on prescribing errors emerged. Addressing barriers such as the identification of individual prescribers would facilitate feedback in practice. Research investigating whether or not feedback reduces the subsequent error rate is now needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Feedback
  • Female
  • Humans
  • London
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / standards*
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control*
  • Pharmacists / organization & administration*
  • Pharmacy Service, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards*
  • Professional Role
  • Surveys and Questionnaires