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Preventing medication errors

According to a report from the Institute of Medicine, 1.5 million people are injured by medication errors in this country every year. As of the 2006 report, those errors cost Americans $3.5 billion in wages, lost productivity and other medical expenses.

Most medications are administered by nurses. While some errors are located when they are prescribed, administration errors are not stopped until after the medication has been taken. These types of errors account for 26 percent to 32 percent of all medication errors.

According to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), there are 10 key elements that directly influence medication use. When there are weaknesses in those key elements, it can lead to errors. The key elements are:

-- Drug information: All caregivers need to have current, accurate information about the drug.

-- Patient information: Required information includes name, birth date, age, weight, diagnosis, allergies, vital signs and current lab results.

-- Communication: Many medication errors occur because of miscommunication among doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

-- Drug nomenclature, packaging and labeling: Any medication used in a health care organization should be clearly labeled for institutional use. Medications with names that sound the same also contributes to errors.

-- Medication stock, storage, distribution and standardization: While automating dispensing cabinets have helped decrease medication errors, technicians can still stock the cabinets incorrectly.

-- The acquisition of drug devices, their use and monitoring: Any drug delivery system could have a flaw that could lead to medication errors.

-- Staff competency and education: Continuing education for nurses can help prevent medication errors.

-- Medication education of patients: Patients need to be told what medication and dose they are being given, as some patients can prevent an error from occurring. Patients should also be told about the possible side affects and/or drug interactions, how to take it and what medical condition it is treating.

-- Environmental factors: Problems like inadequate lighting or distractions when administering drugs can lead to errors.

-- Risk management and quality processes: When a health care organization has a strong safety culture, it can help reduce medication errors.

Have you been injured by a medication error? If so, you may have a right to seek compensation for your injury, including medical expenses, lost wages and more. An experienced lawyer can help you learn more about pursuing compensation.

Source:, "Medication errors: Don’t let them happen to you," Pamela Anderson, accessed May 12, 2017

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