childrens hospital brings pharmacists to the er

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there are a surprisingly large number of reasons why a patient can end up with the wrong drug, including confusion over dosage or similar sounding drug names, illegible physician handwriting and poorly designed medication packaging, to name only a few.

While you might imagine the fallout from these medication errors would typically be limited to a temporary bout of adverse symptoms, this is actually far from the case. Indeed, statistics show that over 7,000 people lose their lives to prescription mistakes here in the U.S. every year.

Interestingly, a children’s hospital in the Dallas area is now trying a new approach to help prevent medication errors among its pediatric patients, whose differing metabolic rates make them predisposed to getting the wrong drug or the wrong dosage.

Here, the hospital actually employs 10 full-time emergency pharmacists who conduct real-time reviews of medication orders put in by emergency room physicians before any dispensing or administration takes place.

The emergency pharmacists, all of whom must participate in a 24-hour on-call schedule, review an average of roughly 20,000 medication orders per week, verifying such vital information as the medication ordered, health insurance, allergy history of the patient and patient’s weight.

While you might question whether such a system is needed, consider that statistics show that children are three times more likely to be victims of prescription errors and how time is of the essence in an emergency room setting.

It is worth noting that these comprehensive reviews conducted by the pharmacists are actually in addition to automatic reviews being conducted by an existing electronic medical record system, which is designed to run a “spell check” on incoming medication orders.

While implementing such a prescription system would undoubtedly cost a hospital a significant amount of money, experts indicate that it can serve to reduce readmissions, something that translates into both cost savings and saved lives.

If you or your child has suffered undue harm because of a medication error here in Pennsylvania, remember to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options for seeking justice.

Source: National Public Radio, “Hospitals put pharmacists in the ER to cut medication errors,” Lauren Silverman, June 9, 2014

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