Introduction Prescribing of medication in children is a very complex process that involves an understanding of paediatric physiology, disease states, medication used and pharmacokinetics as well as patient specific details, their co-morbidities and their clinical condition. The most common medication errors have been identified as dosing, route of administration, and frequency of administration. Computerised provider order entry has been shown to reduce the number of prescribing errors related to chemotherapy as well as the likelihood of dose and calculation errors in paediatric chemotherapy prescribing. Locally, paediatric chemotherapy is prescribed on pre-printed paper prescriptions. Adaptation and implementation of ARIA electronic prescribing (EP) system for use in paediatric chemotherapy was undertaken by a Specialist Paediatric Oncology Pharmacist and was rolled out for use in January 2016 for patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.
Method The United Kingdom National Randomised Trial for Children and Young Adults with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia and Lymphoma 2011 (UKALL, 2011) was developed for use on EP, with prescribing of all other chemotherapy remaining on paper. The number and type of prescribing errors were collected during a pre-implementation phase from January 2015 to June 2015. After the introduction of EP and following a 2 month acclimatisation period, a second period of data collection took place between March 2016 and July 2016. Overall prescribing error rates and the frequency of each error type were calculated both before and after implementation.
Results Before the introduction of EP for paediatric chemotherapy, the overall error rate was 18.4% with a total of 16 different errors seen. Post implementation, overall error rate increased to 25.7% (p<0.001) with a total of 10 different errors seen. After introduction of EP, prescribing error rates on paper were 30.6% and on EP were 7.0% (p<0.001). Only 5 different error types were seen with electronic prescribing. The most commonly seen errors in prescribing with paper, both before and after were almost eliminated with the introduction of EP.
Conclusion The introduction of EP has resulted in a significant reduction in prescribing error rates compared to paper based prescribing for paediatric chemotherapy. Overall the prescribing error rate increased after the introduction of EP but this was related to an increased rate on the paper prescriptions. One possible reason for this was the use of dual systems for prescribing. In addition there was unforeseen relocation and building work within the paediatric cancer unit, which affected prescribing time allocation. There were also several staff shortages within the prescribing team after implementation and this resulted in an increased workload on the remaining chemotherapy prescribers. All these issues could have attributed to the increase in error rates. The most common errors seen with chemotherapy prescribing have been reduced with EP as protocols have been developed with a focus on prescribing safety. Further work is needed as more prescribing takes place on EP to assess the full impact it has on paediatric chemotherapy error rates.
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