Medications are meant to heal illnesses and improve medical conditions. But the drugs are only as effective as the providers prescribing them. Errors in prescribing and managing medications can lead to serious harm in patients – and the mistakes happen more than some may think.
In a study of more than 1000 hospitals, researchers discovered that medication errors occurred in 5 percent of patients admitted each year to hospitals. Even more troubling, each health canter experienced a medication error every 22.7 hours. Multiple medical team members can be responsible for medication mistakes, including primary care doctors, nurses and specialists. Patients can also experience medication errors at all levels of their health care, but research shows a large portion of the mistakes happen in the emergency department. A recent analysis found the incidence of medication errors was 50.5% at various levels in an emergency department.
A medication error is defined as a lack of success in the therapeutic process that leads to, or has the potential to lead to, harm to the patient. Stages of drug errors include manufacturing or compounding, relevant transcribing, dispensing, prescribing and administration of a medication, and monitoring of its effects. Pharmaceutical errors vary, but some common malpractice mistakes are:
- Omission errors – These frequent mistakes refer to a lack of proper treatment involving medication. For instance, if a physician fails to prescribe a life-saving drug or fails to provide a drug that would improve a patient’s condition.
- Prescribing errors – Such errors relate to incorrect prescriptions for patients that lead to harm. For example, prescribing the wrong medication or failing to review a patient’s medical history that notes drug allergies.
- Wrong dosage – A potentially deadly mistake, an incorrect dosage of drugs can lead to a dangerous level of medication being administered to a patient.
- Incorrect medical history – This refers to a lack of necessary and required information in a patient’s medical record that could have prevented a medication error. Health providers are required to collect certain past history information about patients at intake.
- Poor drug monitoring – Health care teams have a duty to monitor a patient’s progression after prescribing medication. Failing to monitor a patient’s condition and manage their medications can result in injury to a patient.
- Incorrect administration – This error refers to the improper delivery of a medication. For example, administering an intravenous drug into the wrong area of the body.
While most health providers prescribe drugs safely, patients should be aware of potential medication errors that could occur during their care. Some clinicians are careless in the administering and monitoring of drugs in patients. These mistakes could be medical malpractice and cause serious ramifications for patients and their families. Patients who believe they may have been harmed by medication negligence should contact a skilled attorney to review their case as soon as possible.