Medication Errors and How to Prevent Them

Medication Errors and How to Prevent Them

Medication Errors and How to Prevent ThemCommon Medication Errors and Their Impact

Since 2000, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received over 95,000 reports of medication errors, according to the FDA website (updated in 2009). These reports may represent only a fraction of the real number of occurrences.

There are different causes of medication errors of which patients should be aware, including:

  • Miscommunication;
  • Poor handwriting;
  • Confusion between similar drug names;
  • Misreading packaging;
  • Prescribing or administering medication that interferes with other medicines;
  • Prescribing or administering the incorrect drug; and
  • Prescribing or administering the wrong dosage.

The worst-case scenario for a medication error is death. Other serious injuries like brain damage and damage to other vital body systems are possible from medication errors. Thus it's important to recognize the possibility of medication errors, as well as tips for preventing them.

Tips to Prevent Medication Errors

There are four areas where people can be vigilant in avoiding medication errors, at:

  • The doctor's office;
  • The pharmacy;
  • Home; and
  • The hospital.

People should always share their complete medical history with their doctor, including any over the counter drugs and dietary supplements they're taking. Patients may even bring all the medication they're taking to a doctor's visit so the doctor has a clear picture of their patient's health.  If a doctor's handwriting is sloppy, patients should ask for clarification. Ask the name of the medication and the dosage. And then check that the medication with which the pharmacist fills the prescription is correct and in the right dosage.

When at the pharmacy, patients shouldn't feel any worries about double checking with the pharmacist that they got the right medicine. It's okay to ask, "Is this the right medication for me?" before leaving the pharmacy. Make sure to ask your doctor and your pharmacist about any possible side effects and complications from the medications.

At home, have the medication organized and accessible. If someone has lots of prescriptions to take, having a pill organizer can help him or her keep track. Prescription information should also be easily available in case they need to double check dosage or look-up prescriptions for any possible bad reactions.

When visiting a hospital, it's important that patients ask questions and make sure they understand their home treatment plan completely. Patients should also understand how their care is coordinated between the hospital, their doctor and pharmacy before leaving. Bringing a close friend or spouse along to the hospital is a good idea as well to have an extra set of eyes and ears to double-check treatment.

Legal Options for Medication Error Victims

Victims of medication errors can file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor, pharmacy or other organization responsible for the error. In order to win this legal action, the plaintiff must prove the health care professional violated the standard of care which is defined as the care another provider would've provided in reasonably similar situations. The plaintiff must also establish the negligence caused the patient's injuries.

Ryan, LLP in Cleveland is a law firm committed to protecting patients' rights in the event of medical malpractice. Contact our office at 877-864-9495 to schedule a free consultation so you can review the details of your case.

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