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Medication Safety and Error Prevention: Efforts Should Focus on Systems Solutions
Patient Safety

Medication Safety and Error Prevention: Efforts Should Focus on Systems Solutions

Many people take medicine without enough thought to medication safety issues, such as following dosage directions, being aware of medication interactions and side-effects, or weighing other important considerations.

With the sheer volume of medicines taken every day, there is ample opportunity for harm to occur.

In the U.S. alone, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/ National Center for Health Statistics estimated that:

  • About 50% of Americans use at least one prescription drug daily; 24% use three or more; and 12.8% use five or more prescription drugs
  • 860.4 million prescriptions are written during physician office visits
  • 336 million drugs are given or prescribed during hospital emergency department visits

While medication errors can be harmful with personal use, the stakes are much higher in healthcare settings where challenges, such as the sheer volume of medicines administered, similar drug names, hectic pace, and staffing shortages, can contribute to errors and have the capacity for more widespread harm.

Awareness, education, training, and analysis can help prevent medication errors. And while individual practitioners need to exercise the utmost care and good judgment, the healthcare industry and patients benefit when medication errors are addressed. According to ECRI’s affiliate, The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), many medication-related safety challenges still exist across the globe, including the need for more national reporting and learning systems, lack of medication safety officers in some healthcare organizations, and mix-ups involving COVID vaccines.

Again, medication errors are preventable, so organizations such as ours, and the World Health Organization (WHO), are advocating together in commemoration of World Patient Safety Day, which occurs each year on September 17. ECRI and ISMP join the WHO in working toward a safer, more affordable, equitable, and accessible care for patients everywhere. Together, we’re advocating for:

  1. Increased public awareness and engagement of medication-related danger
  2. Enhanced global understanding of medication errors
  3. Work toward global solidarity and action to enhance patient safety and reduce patient harm

To support these efforts, ECRI and ISMP have launched our World Patient Safety Day website with educational resources and safety guidance to raise awareness of the risks of medication errors. Resources include guidelines and recommendations for practitioners and safety tips for consumers.

Learn more about how to prevent medication errors at