report by pennsylvania patient safety authority examines dangerous prescription error

For most of us, the term prescription error conjures up thoughts of pharmacies giving us the wrong medication, physicians prescribing the wrong dosage or nurses failing to administer the medication properly. While these are all certainly accurate depictions, a recent report reveals that there is another type of prescription error of which healthcare providers must be aware.

According to a report by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, an independent agency created by the state back in 2002, providers must take steps to address the danger posed by patients taking undisclosed medications while in a healthcare facility.

The problem here is that when patients take a medication to help manage an existing condition, they can sometimes forget to inform their healthcare provider about it upon their admission to the hospital.

Like a cup of coffee in the morning, taking the medication becomes so engrained in the person’s routine that it becomes surprisingly easy to lose track of, particularly in the controlled chaos of a hospital setting.

Unfortunately, this failure on the part of healthcare professionals to take the time to uncover this information can create the risk of a potential overdose and/or dangerous drug interactions.

The Patient Safety Authority determined that from July 1, 2004 to January 2011, Pennsylvania medical facilities reported nearly 900 cases of patients taking undisclosed medications while in the hospital and that roughly 2 percent of these cases resulted in patient harm.

Interestingly, the Patient Safety Authority report outlines 11 ways in which healthcare providers can avoid prescription errors caused by patients taking undisclosed medications while in the hospital.

While a complete examination of all 11 suggestions is clearly beyond the scope of a single blog post, two of the more noteworthy suggestions include:

  • Explaining the hospital’s policy on outside medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) to the patient and conducting a thorough interview to learn what medications, if any, that a patient is taking
  • Establishing a process to identify those patients who have an established history of bringing their own medications to the hospital

Remember if you feel that a prescription error has played a role in the death or serious injury of someone in your family, you can fight for the justice that both you and your loved one deserve.

Source: MedCity News, “11 ways healthcare providers can avoid medication errors,” Stephanie Baum, Sept. 6, 2012

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