Prevalence of Medication Errors Among Paediatric Inpatients: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis



The risk of medication errors is high in paediatric inpatient settings. However, estimates of the prevalence of medication errors have not accounted for heterogeneity across studies in error identification methods and definitions, nor contextual differences across wards and the use of electronic or paper medication charts.


Our aim was to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to provide separate estimates of the prevalence of medication errors among paediatric inpatients, depending on hospital ward and the use of electronic or paper medication charts, that address differences in error identification methods and definitions.


We systematically searched five databases to identify studies published between January 2000 and December 2018 that assessed medication error rates by medication chart audit, direct observation or a combination of methods.


We identified 71 studies, 19 involved paediatric wards using electronic charts. Most studies assessed prescribing errors with few studies assessing administration errors. Estimates varied by ward type. Studies of paediatric wards using electronic charts generally reported a reduced error prevalence compared to those using paper, although there were some inconsistencies. Error detection methods impacted the rate of administration errors in studies of multiple wards, however, no other difference was found. Definition of medication error did not have a consistent impact on reported error rates.


Medication errors are a frequent occurrence in paediatric inpatient settings, particularly in intensive care wards and emergency departments. Hospitals using electronic charts tended to have a lower rate of medication errors compared to those using paper charts. Future research employing controlled designs is needed to determine the true impact of electronic charts and other interventions on medication errors and associated harm among hospitalized children.

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Correspondence to Peter J. Gates.

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Conflict of interest

Peter Gates, Melissa Baysari, Madlen Gazarian, Magdalena Raban, Sophie Meyerson, and Johanna Westbrook have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this study.


Funding from a National Health and Medical Research Council Partnership Grant (APP1094878) was used to assist with this research. MZR is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Early Career Fellowship (APP1143941).

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Gates, P.J., Baysari, M.T., Gazarian, M. et al. Prevalence of Medication Errors Among Paediatric Inpatients: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Drug Saf 42, 1329–1342 (2019).

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