Delivering The Help You Need

Prescriptions and peril: Tackling medication mistakes

On Behalf of | May 20, 2024 | Medical Malpractice

Medication errors are a leading cause of preventable patient harm. The mistakes can occur at various stages of healthcare delivery, including prescribing, transcribing, dispensing, administering and monitoring medications.

If and when these mistakes happen, the patients pay the price. As such, it is crucial to know why they happen and what parties can do to prevent them.

Types of medication errors

There are many types of medication mistakes that people, including pharmacists, doctors and nurses, might make. These errors can include:

  • Incorrect dosages
  • Wrong timing or duration
  • Giving prescriptions to the wrong person
  • Misinterpreting physician notes
  • Improper administration routes
  • Using expired medication
  • Prescribing to patients with known allergies or contraindications

These mistakes can happen for many reasons, from distractions and poor communication to system failures and lack of knowledge.

How can we prevent these mistakes?

Patients may only have so much control over the medications they ultimately have in their system. We can make sure we ask questions, make informed decisions and follow doctor’s orders, but even these steps require us to put a great deal of trust into the hands of others.

Most people do not have insights into things like pharmacy or hospital operations, care provider training, or physician communication.

Thus, the people involved in getting us the medication are the ones who play the most significant role in preventing mistakes. Their responsibilities can involve:

  • Educating themselves on how and why mistakes happen
  • Implementing error minimization strategies
  • Fostering interprofessional collaboration for accurate medication reconciliations.
  • Using technological interventions such as Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) systems and electronic health records
  • Enforcing strict operational processes
  • Considering patient-specific factors like age and organ function

Further, regulatory bodies have set guidelines to minimize medication errors. Complying with these rules must be a top priority for everyone, from the individuals handling drugs to company and clinical leaders who hire workers, set workplace policies and impose penalties for mistakes.

If any of these parties fail to take reasonable steps to protect patients, they can be legally responsible. Medication errors can have devastating consequences for patients, including increased hospital admissions, longer stays, higher costs and increased mortality risk. Healthcare providers may also face legal, professional and emotional repercussions.