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Open Access Open Badges Research article

How often do physicians review medication charts on ward rounds?

Khang Li Looi1 and Peter N Black2*

Author Affiliations

1 Dept of Cardiology, Auckland City Hospital, Private Bag 92024, Auckland 1142, New Zealand

2 Dept of Pharmacology & Clinical Pharmacology, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand

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BMC Clinical Pharmacology 2008, 8:9  doi:10.1186/1472-6904-8-9

Published: 29 September 2008



Prescribing errors are common in hospital settings. Regular review of medication charts is recommended as a way to reduce errors but it is not clear how often this happens. The aim of this study was to determine the frequency with which specialist physicians reviewed medication charts during ward rounds.


An observer noted how often consultant physicians at Auckland City Hospital reviewed medication charts during ward rounds. The physicians were not aware that they were being observed.


Twenty-one physicians were observed over a 26 week period. The general physicians reviewed the medication charts on 77% of occasions (range: 45% – 100%) during routine ward rounds and 65% of the time (range: 41% – 80%) on post admission rounds. Subspecialty physicians who did not see more than 8 patients on their rounds reviewed medication charts more frequently (88%) than those specialties where more than 8 patients were seen on average (61%).


The physicians did not review medication charts on all ward rounds and there was considerable variation in how often they did this. There is some evidence that the frequency with which charts are reviewed decreases as the number of patients seen increases. More efforts should be made to encourage regular review of medication charts.