Effects of text enhancements on the differentiation performance of orthographically similar drug names

Work. 2014;48(4):521-8. doi: 10.3233/WOR-131809.


Background: Orthographically similar drug names create confusion errors and pose a potential threat to medication safety. Enhancing the differing letters in similar drug names is one possible way to address the problem.

Objective: This study investigated the effects of text enhancement methods(tall man, bold face, larger lowercase, and red lettering with lowercase as the comparison group) and orthographic similarity (referred to the extent to which the letters that made up the two names in a pair were similar to each other) on the differentiation performance of look-alike drug names.

Methods: Sixty individuals from a university and its affiliated hospital participated in the differentiation test in which they determined whether the two drug names in each of the 120 confusable name pairs were the same or different. Outcome measures were response time and proportion of correct responses.

Results: Using larger lowercase and red lettering resulted in significantly shorter response times. Drug names that were more similar to each other led to significantly longer response times. Text enhancement and orthographic similarity did not have impact on proportion of correct responses.

Conclusions: Our study provides additional support for the use of text enhancement to emphasize the differences between medicines with names that look alike.

Keywords: Human factors; drug name differentiation; drug safety; orthographically similar drug name; textual format.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Drug Labeling / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Printing*
  • Reaction Time
  • Young Adult