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Am J Health Syst Pharm. 1997 Jan 15;54(2):171-7.

Failure-mode and effects analysis in improving a drug distribution system.

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  • 1School of Pharmacy, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia.


The medication error rate in an existing ward stock drug distribution system and in an alternative system developed after failure-mode and effects analysis (FMEA) was applied to the ward stock system was studied. In the ward stock system of a large teaching hospital in Western Australia, bulk drug packs were stored in cupboards on the wards, and drug products were transferred to drug trolleys before dose administration by nurses. A pharmacist used the disguised-observer technique to determine the error rate in the ward stock system for a medical ward and a surgical ward. The errors and each step in the system were studied by FMEA. A unit supply individual-patient dispensing (USIPD) system was formulated to respond to the failure modes identified. In this system, a five-day supply of medication was dispensed for each patient from a satellite pharmacy close to the ward. Medication charts were reviewed by a pharmacist, and drugs were dispensed in labeled vials that were placed in a locked drawer at the patient's bedside. The error rate under the USIPD system was determined. Problem areas in the ward stock system identified by FMEA included drug availability, review of orders, drug selection, patient-related issues, and use of nurses' time. The percentage of opportunities during which any error occurred was significantly lower under the USIPD system on both wards. FMEA was used to identify deficiencies in the ward stock system that led to medication errors in an Australian hospital. An alternative drug distribution system designed to address the problems identified was associated with fewer errors.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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