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PSNet: Patient Safety Network
Journal Article

ED overcrowding is associated with an increased frequency of medication errors.

Kulstad EB, Sikka R, Sweis RT, et al. The American journal of emergency medicine. 2010;28:304-9.

The Institute of Medicine found that hospital-based emergency care was "at the breaking point" in a seminal 2006 report, in which emergency department (ED) overcrowding was identified as a major patient safety concern. Prior studies have also found that medication errors are a significant problem in the ED. This study sought to investigate the relationship between these two safety concerns. Detailed review of medication orders by pharmacists revealed a significant correlation between ED crowding and the frequency of medication errors. Overcrowding was one factor cited as a major barrier to implementing the National Patient Safety Goals for medication safety in the ED, and a medication error near miss in a busy ED is vividly illustrated in this AHRQ WebM&M commentary.