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Common causes of medication errors

In an effort to understand the root causes of medication errors made in hospitals in South Carolina and nationwide, the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority spearheaded a study that was published recently. In the study, researchers looked at both common causes of medication errors and ways that hospitals can eliminate these types of mistakes. The study considered medication errors to include giving patients the wrong drug, the wrong dosage or administering drugs to the wrong patient.

Two of the biggest sources of errors the researchers found occurred when medical professionals administered drugs and when drug orders were transcribed or transferred, and these errors made up 43 and 38 percent of mistakes respectively. Some of the most common errors related to administration involved medical professionals not ensuring that they were administering drugs to the correct patient. Instead of using protocols to identify a patient, some workers would rely on the patient or a family member to verify a patient's identity. Giving medication to someone sharing a patient's room was also a fairly common mistake.

Transcription errors occurred mainly due to copying information from the wrong patient's chart, and this includes entering a medication order into an electronic database or a patient's records. Less common sources of errors involved ordering a medication on the wrong chart, such as when a husband and wife shared a room, and mislabeling medications.

If a patient receives the wrong medication, it can have harmful or even deadly consequences. Some medications are extremely dangerous and have risky side effects and should not be administered to someone that does not need them. A lawyer may be able to help someone who has been given the wrong medication understand their legal options and represent them in court if needed.

Source: MedCity News, "Why are medication orders going to the wrong patients? Here are four reasons ", Stephanie Baum, June 07, 2013

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