Medication Errors Among Adults and Children with Cancer in the Outpatient Setting

This article examined medication errors among cancer outpatients at several oncology clinics. Adults and children with cancer receive complex medication regimes and the frequency of medication errors in this health care setting is not well known.

The authors reviewed medical records from four oncology clinics. Two physicians independently identified the existence and severity of errors. They also identified possible interventions to prevent medication errors.

Key Findings:

  • 7 percent of adult visits were associated with a medication error.
  • 18 percent of child visits were associated with a medication error.
  • Of the errors identified, approximately 50 percent had the potential to cause harm. Thirteen percent caused documented injury.
  • Errors occurred most frequently at administration. They often occurred when two sets of orders were given, one at diagnosis and one on the day of administration.

Medication errors are relatively frequent among adults and children receiving outpatient care for cancer. Improved communication may lower the rate of medication errors.