Your medication is an essential part of your ongoing treatment. It may help you fight illnesses, manage chronic conditions or address symptoms that would otherwise have a significant impact on your life. However, when medical providers are negligent, errors in medication could damage your health. What should patients know about the causes of these errors?
What issues may cause medication errors?
Patients rely on every part of their medical team, from their doctor and nursing staff to those managing their records in the office, to ensure that they receive the best possible care. Unfortunately, an error in any part of their care could lead to a medication error. Some common causes of error include:
- Communication errors — Healthcare facilities depend on proper communication between all members of the staff. When that communication breaks down, though, the error can lead to unintended drug interactions, missed or repeat doses, incorrect medication instructions and other concerns. This is especially dangerous for patients who rely on nurses during a hospital stay.
- Illegible writing — Doctors often write quickly, leading to handwritten notes that others can have difficulty reading. That illegible writing can make it difficult for a doctor’s instructions to be passed on correctly. Patients may even be given the wrong medication as a result of unreadable handwriting.
- Abbreviations — Healthcare providers may use abbreviations to allow them to take notes more quickly. However, any lack of clarity in those abbreviations creates potential errors.
- Typos and other mistakes in transcription — Transcription is essential when transferring medication instructions from a prescription pad, to pharmacy staff and eventually to the medication label. Transcription errors can lead to medication of the incorrect strength, incorrect instructions for timing and duration, incorrect dosages and other errors.
Any of these medication errors can significantly impact a patient’s health. Errors can cause patients to not receive the medication they need, receive the wrong medication or receive dangerous dosages. They can also put patients at risk of dangerous drug interactions and side effects.
Unfortunately, many people experience medication errors each year, and an estimated 7,000 to 9,000 people pass away as a result of those mistakes every year. Thankfully, injured patients and their families have legal options that could allow them to hold healthcare providers responsible for the damage done by their errors.