Introduction Prescription errors, including continuous infusion prescriptions are one major source of concern in the paediatric population. Evidence suggests that use of an electronic or web-based calculator could minimise these errors. In our paediatric critical care unit (PCCU) we have created an electronic continuous infusion prescription chart to target errors in this area and conducted an audit to assess its effect on error reduction.
Aim To create an electronic continuous infusion prescription chart and audit its effect on prescription errors.
Method Similar electronic continuous infusion prescription charts were evaluated. A Choice of electronic formats were considered and excel was chosen for its simplicity and flexibility. The choice of medications to be included, dilution method, and dosage range was agreed between PCCU consultant, pharmacy and nursing staff. Formulas for calculating each medication infusion was created and validated for different age and weight ranges by at least 2 PCCU trained pharmacists, accounting for capping at certain age and weight bands as appropriate for the medication. These were programmed into the spreadsheet for automatic calculation using inputted age and weight for the selected medications. Continuous infusion prescriptions were audited 6 months before and after implementation in April 2015 of this electronic chart. Parameters audited include medication dose, infusion rate, concentration, route, legibility, and missing or incorrect patient details. A trial period of 4 weeks preceded implementation.
Results The electronic continuous infusion prescription form was created and used on PCCU. Hand written prescriptions had higher error rate (30.7%) as compared to electronic charts (0.7%) with a p-value <0.002. No errors were found in electronic prescriptions in regards to dose, volume and rate calculation.
Discussion and conclusion The use of an electronic continuous infusion prescription chart has been successfully set up and used on PCCU. Its use has significantly reduced continuous infusion prescription error rates. The one error on electronic prescription charts was due to incorrect data input.
Whilst similar formats exist for transferring patients between intensive care units in the UK, this differs by its use on inpatients. As a new project, various learning points were gained during the process. Some discrepancies in the formulas were identified during the validation process and trial period and the flexibility to change these quickly was paramount. The need to standardise prescribing habits and administration preferences was also important before proceeding to the formulation stage. Security and version control was another factor to consider ensuring restricted use of the most updated version.
Major advantages of this prescription chart include ease of set up and low cost compared to established commercial programs. Another was the ability to quickly adapt information to the changing needs of the unit or updated dosage recommendations.
In summary, the use of the electronic continuous infusion prescription chart has significantly reduced prescription error rates on PCCU. It has also allowed more efficient use of medical and pharmacy time resources.