and prevention strategies. The committee believes the nation should invest about $100 million annually in the research proposed below.

The primary focus of research on medication errors in the next decade should be prevention strategies, recognizing that to plan an error prevention study, it is essential to be able to measure the baseline rate of errors. Evidence on the efficacy of prevention strategies for improving medication safety is badly needed in a number of settings, including care transitions, ambulatory care (particularly home care, self-care, and medication use in schools), pediatric care, psychiatric care, and the use of OTC and complementary and alternative medications. For hospitals, key areas are further investigation of some prevention strategies (particularly bar coding and smart IV pumps) and how to integrate electronic health records with computerized provider order entry, clinical decision support, bar coding, and smart IV pumps.

Overall, most data on medication error incidence rates come from the inpatient setting, but the magnitude of the problem is likely to be greater outside the hospital. Areas of priority for research on medication error and ADE incidence rates are care transitions, specialty ambulatory clinics, psychiatric care, the administering of medications in schools, and the use of OTC and complementary and alternative medications. Much more research is needed as well on the patient’s role in the prevention of errors, specifically, what systems provide the most cost-effective support for safe and effective medication self-management or for surrogate participation in medication use when a patient is unable to self-manage.

Most studies of the costs of medication errors relate to hospitals, and some report data more than 10 years old (Bates et al., 1997). A better understanding of the costs and consequences of medication errors in all care settings is needed to help inform decisions about investing in medication error prevention strategies.

Recommendation 6: AHRQ should take the lead, working with other government agencies such as CMS, the FDA, and the NLM, in coordinating a broad research agenda on the safe and appropriate use of medications across all care settings, and Congress should allocate the funds necessary to carry out this agenda. This agenda should encompass research methodologies, incidence rates by type and severity, costs of medication errors, reporting systems, and in particular, further testing of error prevention strategies.


Improving medication safety will require key changes in oversight, regulation, and payment. Accordingly, the following recommendation is addressed to the stakeholders that shape the environment in which care is

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