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Scientific/Medical Question 11
What are the different types of medication error?
Medication errors fall into four broad categories. These are: knowledge based errors, rule based errors, action based errors and memory based errors.
Knowledge based errors are due to a lack of knowledge on the drug being prescribed, or the patient to whom the drug is being given. An example would be giving penicillin to a patient who is allergic to it. These errors can be avoided by better education, cross-checking of prescriptions, and computerised prescribing systems.
Rule based errors involve misapplying a rule, or using an incorrect rule - an example being injecting diclofenac into the lateral thigh, instead of the buttocks.
Action based errors - or slips - involve a mistaken action. An example would be picking up a box of diazepam in place of alprazolam. These errors can be reduced by cross checking and ensuring medicines are clearly labelled.
Memory based errors - or lapses - involve simply forgetting a vital piece of information. An example would be prescribing a patient a drug that they were allergic to, having momentarily forgotten about the allergy.