Investigating the incidence, nature, severity and potential causality of medication errors in hospital settings in Qatar

Binny Thomas, Abdulrouf Pallivalapila, Wessam El Kassem, Moza Al Hail, Vibhu Paudyal, James McLay, Katie MacLure, Derek Stewart*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


BackgroundMedication errors are a major public health concern that negatively impact patient safety and health outcomes. Effective and efficient medication error reporting systems and practices are imperative in reducing error incidence and severity.ObjectiveThe objectives were to quantify the incidence, nature and severity of medication errors, and to explore potential causality using a theoretical framework.SettingThe study was conducted at Hamad Medical Corporation, the largest public funded academic healthcare center in the state of Qatar.MethodsA retrospective review of medication error reports submitted to the Hamad Medical Corporation incident reporting system during 2015 to 2017. Data related to number of reports, reporter, medication, severity and outcomes were extracted. Reason's Accident Causation Model was used as a theoretical framework for identifying potential causality. Two researchers independently categorized errors as: active failures (e.g. forgetting to administer medication at scheduled time); error provoking conditions (e.g. medication prescribed by an unauthorized physician and administered to the patient); and latent failures (e.g. organizational factors, lack of resources).Main outcome measuresIncidence, classes of medications, reporter, error severity and outcomes, potential causality.ResultsA total of 5103 reports provided sufficient information to be included in the study giving an estimated error incidence of 0.044% of prescribed medication items. Most of the reports (91.5%, n = 4667) were submitted by pharmacists and majority (87.9%, n = 4485) were prescribing errors. The most commonly reported medications were anti-infectives for systemic use (22.0%, n = 1123) followed by medications to treat nervous system disorders (17.2%, n = 876). Only three errors reported to have caused temporary harm requiring intervention while one contributed to or resulted in temporary harm requiring initial or prolonged hospitalization. In terms of potential causality of medication errors, the majority (91.5%, n = 4671) were classified as active failures.ConclusionAlmost all reports were submitted by pharmacists, indicating likely under-reporting affecting the actual incidence. Effort is required to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the reporting system. The use of the theoretical framework allowed identification of potential causality, largely in relation to active failures, which can inform the basis of interventions to improve medication safety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77–84
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Clinical Pharmacy
Issue number1
Early online date7 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Open Access funding provided by the Qatar National Library. The authors acknowledge the contribution of Dr Anas Hamad of the Medication Safety and Quality Center at Hamad Medical Corporation.
This study was funded by the Medical Research Center at Hamad Medical Corporation, Qatar.


  • Causes
  • Error reporting
  • Incidence
  • Medication errors
  • Qatar
  • Reason's accident causation model
  • Severity


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