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This commentary presents two cases highlighting common medication errors in retail pharmacy settings and discusses the importance of mandatory counseling for new medications, use of standardized error reporting processes, and the role of clinical decision support systems (CDSS) in medical decision-making and ensuring medication safety.

Koeck JA, Young NJ, Kontny U, et al. Pediatric Drugs. 2021;23:223-240.
Pediatric patients are at risk for medication prescribing errors due to weight-based dosing. This review analyzed 70 interventions aimed at reducing weight-based prescribing errors. Findings indicate that bundled interventions are most effective, and that interventions should include substitute or engineering controls (e.g., computerized provider order entry) along with administrative controls (e.g., expert consultation).

A 24-year-old woman with type 1 diabetes presented to the emergency department with worsening abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. Her last dose of insulin was one day prior to presentation. She stopped taking insulin because she was not tolerating any oral intake. The admitting team managed her diabetes with subcutaneous insulin but thought the patient did not meet criteria for diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), but after three inpatient days with persistent hyperglycemia, blurred vision, and altered mental status, a consulting endocrinologist diagnosed DKA.

Kostopoulou O, Tracey C, Delaney BC. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2021;28:1461-1467.
In addition to being used for patient-specific clinical purposes, data within the electronic health record (EHR) may be used for other purposes including epidemiological research. Researchers in the UK developed and tested a clinical decision support system (CDSS) to evaluate changes in the types and number of observations that primary care physicians entered into the EHR during simulated patient encounters. Physicians documented more clinical observations using the CDSS compared to the standard electronic health record. The increase in documented clinical observations has the potential to improve validity of research developed from EHR data.

Partnership for Health IT Patient Safety. Plymouth Meeting, PA: ECRI Institute; 2021.

Alert fatigue is a recognized contributor to task burden and medical error. This report distilled monitoring, analysis, and optimization experiences to recommend strategies for improving the effectiveness of clinical audible alerts which includes the development of an overarching clinical decision support governance plan.
Shah SN, Amato MG, Garlo KG, et al. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2021;28:1081-1087.
Clinical decision support (CDS) alerts can improve patient safety, and prior research suggests that monitoring alert overrides can identify errors. Over a one-year period, this study found that medication-related CDS alerts associated with renal insufficiency were nearly always deemed inappropriate and were all overridden. These findings highlight the need for improvements in alert design, implementation, and monitoring of alert performance to ensure alerts are patient-specific and clinically appropriate.  
Delvaux N, Piessens V, Burghgraeve TD, et al. Implement Sci. 2020;15:100.
Clinical decision support systems (CDSS) and computerized physician order entry (CPOE) have the potential to improve patient safety. This randomized trial evaluated the impact of integrating CDSS into CPOE among general practitioners in Belgium. The intervention improved appropriateness and decreased volume of laboratory test ordering and did not show any increases in diagnostic errors.
Leviatan I, Oberman B, Zimlichman E, et al. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2021;28:1074-1080.
Human factors, such as cognitive load, are main contributors to prescribing errors. This study assessed the relationship between medication prescribing errors and a physician’s workload, successive work shifts, and prescribing experience. The researchers reviewed presumed medication errors flagged by a computerized decision support system (CDSS) in acute care settings (excluding intensive care units) and found that longer hours and less experience in prescribing specific medications increased the risk of prescribing errors.
Vandenberg AE, Kegler M, Hastings SN, et al. Int J Qual Health Care. 2020;32:470-476.
This article describes the implementation of the Enhancing Quality of Prescribing Practices for Older Adults in the Emergency Department (EQUIPPED) medication safety program at three academic medical centers. EQUIPPED is a multicomponent intervention intended to reduce potentially inappropriate prescribing among adults aged 65 and older who are discharged from the Emergency Department. The authors discuss lessons learned and provide insight which can inform implementation strategies at other institutions.

Philadelphia, PA: Pew Charitable Trusts; July 21, 2020.

Tracking problems with health information technology (Health IT) is an important strategy to drive improvement. This report outlines general health IT and decision support actions to inform action, and discusses the role that regulation and accreditation have for driving improvement.
A 55-year old woman became unarousable with low oxygen saturation as a result of multiple intravenous benzodiazepine doses given overnight. The benzodiazepine was ordered following a seizure in the intensive care unit (ICU) and was not revised or discontinued upon transfer to the floor; several doses were given for different indications - anxiety and insomnia.
After undergoing a complete atrioventricular canal defect repair, an infant with trisomy 21 was transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and total parenteral nutrition (TPN) was ordered due to low cardiac output. When the TPN order expired, it was not reordered in time for cross-checking by the dietician and pediatric pharmacist and the replacement TPN order was mistakenly entered to include sodium chloride 77 mEq/100 mL, a ten-fold higher concentration than intended.
Edrees H, Amato MG, Wong A, et al. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2020;27:893-900.
Clinical decision support alerts can notify clinicians to potential prescribing errors and potentially avoid adverse drug events. This retrospective study evaluated over 16,000 alerts for drug-drug interactions and found that nearly 96% were overridden by providers; of these overrides, 45.4% were deemed appropriate upon chart review. Alerts for high-priority drug-drug interactions were overridden 87% of the time, and chart review determined that only 0.5% of these alerts were appropriate. The researchers found that 5.1 adverse drug events occurred per 100 overrides. 
Three patients were at the same hospital over the course of a few months for vascular access device (VAD) placement and experienced adverse outcomes. The adverse outcomes of two of them were secondary to drugs given for sedation, while the third patient’s situation was somewhat different. Vascular access procedures are extremely common and are relatively short but may require the use of procedural sedation, which is usually very well tolerated but can involve significant risk, as these cases illustrate.
Farnborough, UK: Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch; 2019.
Design flaws and improper use of technologies that transfer medication and prescription information between provider environments is a known threat to patient safety. This report analyzes an anticoagulant overdose incident and found that information technology missteps contributed to the error.
Ganguli I, Simpkin AL, Lupo C, et al. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2:e1913325.
Cascades of care (or follow up) on incidental findings from diagnostic tests are common but are not always clinically meaningful. This study reports the results of a nationally representative group of physicians who were surveyed on their experiences with cascades. Almost all respondents had experienced cascades and many reported harms to patients and personal frustration and anxiety that may contribute to physician burnout.
Clinical decision support systems provide information or recommendations to help clinicians make safe and evidence-based decisions. The use and sophistication of these systems have grown markedly over the past decade, due to widespread implementation of electronic health records and advances in clinical informatics.