Identifying Electronic Medication Administration Record (eMAR) Usability Issues from Patient Safety Event Reports

Jt Comm J Qual Patient Saf. 2021 Dec;47(12):793-801. doi: 10.1016/j.jcjq.2021.09.004. Epub 2021 Sep 16.


Background: Improving our understanding of the association between medication errors and health information technology (health IT) usability has the potential to reduce errors and improve patient safety. This study used patient safety event reports (PSEs) to investigate the contribution of usability challenges associated with the electronic medication administration record (eMAR) to medication errors.

Methods: Free-text descriptions of 849 medication-related PSEs selected from 2.3 million reports were analyzed. Coders identified the specific health IT components, usability challenge categories, and nuanced usability themes that contributed to each PSE. Thematic analysis was conducted to refine categorizations and identify emerging themes. Final analysis was limited to PSEs involving a contribution from eMAR, either as the point of origin or as a downstream contributor to error.

Results: eMAR contributed to 473 PSEs. eMAR was the point of origin for 84 (17.8% of 473) PSEs. Usability challenge categories included Workflow support (n = 52, 11.0%) and Display/Visual clutter (n = 30, 6.3%). eMAR contributed downstream from the point of origin in 389 (82.2% of 473) PSEs, with errors stemming primarily from Pharmacy IT and computerized provider order entry (CPOE). Prominent secondary eMAR-associated usability challenges included Display/Visual clutter (n = 327, 69.1%) and Alerting (n = 32, 6.8%).

Conclusion: This study identified several eMAR usability challenges, through the analysis of PSEs, that contribute to medication errors. Findings highlight the critical need for improving the eMAR user interface. Improved interface design, better vendor usability testing, eMAR-focused certification testing, consideration of work system factors, and eMAR-focused usability and safety testing by health care facilities can improve eMAR technology and patient safety.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Electronics
  • Humans
  • Medical Order Entry Systems*
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control
  • Patient Safety*
  • Workflow