are pennsylvania hospitals doing enough to prevent drug errors

For the most part, medication errors occur largely because of negligence on the part of our local pharmacies. For example, the pharmacist may have failed to put the right pills in the bottle or perhaps the staff applied a label outlining an incorrect treatment regimen. While it’s true that local pharmacies are ground zero for serious prescription errors more often than not, it’s important to understand that these errors also occur with alarming regularity in medical settings like hospitals and clinics.

Consider a study performed by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority examining 813 medication errors at over 270 medical facilities during a six-month period in 2011. The authors determined that the errors — all of which involved giving the wrong drugs to the wrong patients — occurred at various stages in the treatment process.

For instance, the report indicated that an overwhelming number of the so-called wrong-patient errors occurred when nurses administered the wrong doses to two patients taking the same medication or failed to verify a patient’s identity.

This is not to say that all of the wrong-patient errors were attributed to nursing errors.

For instance, the report found that a sizeable number could be traced to hospital pharmacies that attached the wrong patient labels to particular medication packages, while others could be traced to doctors who made transcription errors in patients’ files.

The good news about medication errors in hospital and clinic settings is that experts indicate that steps can be taken to minimize their occurrence, including limits on the use of verbal orders from physicians and frequent patient verification inquiries by staff.

Another suggestion offered by experts is the implementation of bedside bar-scanning systems. Here, a nurse scans the ordered medication into the computer, scans the patient’s identity bracelet and then scans his or her own badge. This not only helps ensure that the patient gets the right medication, but also tracks who administered it and at what time.

Interestingly, experts also advise patients to keep an eye out and ask questions if they feel they are potentially being administered the wrong medication.

Have you or a family member ever been harmed by a medication error? If so, how did it happen and was the facility willing to provide the necessary information?

Source: The Morning Call, “Hospitals have work to do on getting patients the correct medicine,” Tim Darragh, April 18, 2013

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