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Original article

Vol. 142 No. 1516 (2012)

Outpatient prescriptions practice and writing quality in a paediatric university hospital

  • Ermindo R Di Paolo
  • Mario Gehri
  • Lauriane Ouedraogo-Ruchet
  • Guibet Sibailly
  • Nicolas Lutz
  • André Pannatier
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2012;142:w13564


BACKGROUND: The writing of prescriptions is an important aspect of medical practice. This activity presents some specific problems given a danger of misinterpretation and dispensing errors in community pharmacies. The objective of this study was to determine the evolution of the prescription practice and writing quality in the outpatient clinics of our paediatric university hospital.

METHODS: Copies of prescriptions written by physicians were collected from community pharmacies in the region of our hospital for a two-month period in 2005 and 2010. They were analysed according to standard criteria, including both formal and pharmaceutical aspects.

RESULTS: A total of 597 handwritten prescriptions were reviewed in 2005 and 633 in 2010. They contained 1,456 drug prescriptions in 2005 and 1,348 in 2010. Fifteen drugs accounted for 80% of all prescriptions and the most common drugs were paracetamol and ibuprofen. A higher proportion of drugs were prescribed as International Nonproprietary Names (INN) or generics in 2010 (24.7%) compared with 2005 (20.9%). Of the drug prescriptions examined, 55.5% were incomplete in 2005 and 69.2% in 2010. Moreover in 2005, 3.2% were legible only with difficulty, 22.9% were ambiguous, and 3.0% contained an error. These proportions rose respectively to 5.2%, 27.8%, and 6.8% in 2010.

CONCLUSION: This study showed that fifteen different drugs represented the majority of prescriptions, and a quarter of them were prescribed as INN or generics in 2010; and that handwritten prescriptions contained numerous omissions and preventable errors. In our hospital computerised prescribing coupled with advanced decision support is eagerly awaited.


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