Literacy level linked to pediatric medication errors

January 01, 0001

Literacy level linked to pediatric medication errors

These US authors investigated the level of adult understanding of dosage instructions for a common pediatric liquid medication. Structured interviews were conducted with 373 adults involving the subjects reading a prescription label for amoxicillin and explaining how it should be administered. Blinded physician reviewers coded the subjects' responses. Qualitative methods were used to determine the nature of incorrect responses.

They found: “Twenty-eight percent of subjects misunderstood medication instructions. The prevalence of misinterpreting instructions among subjects with adequate, marginal, and low literacy was 18%, 34%, and 43%, respectively. Common causes for misunderstanding included problems with dosage measurement (28%, ie, tablespoon instead of teaspoon) and frequency of use (33%, ie, every 3 hours instead of every 6-8 hours)… Inadequate and marginal literacy remained independent predictors of misunderstanding (inadequate AOR 2.90, marginal AOR 2.20).”

The authors concluded: “Misinterpretation of pediatric liquid medication instructions is common. Limited literacy is a significant risk factor for misunderstanding and could contribute to racial disparities. Instructions should be written in a concise manner and standardized to ensure comprehension.”

This study highlights the importance of clear, simple instructions for pediatric medication and the importance of verifying caregiver understanding of dosage and timing to help avoid otherwise preventable errors.

For the full abstract, click here.

Fam Med 41(10):715-721, November-December 2009. © 2009 to the Society for Teachers of Family Medicine
Predictors of Misunderstanding Pediatric Liquid Medication Instructions. Stacy Cooper Bailey, Anjali U. Pandit, Shonna Yin, et al. Correspondence to Stacy Bailey: [email protected]

Category: HSR. Health Services Research. Keywords: medication errors, literacy, instructions, dosage, liquid medication, structured interview qualitative study
Synopsis edited by Dr Paul Schaefer, Toledo, Ohio. Posted on Global Family Doctor 14 January 2010

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