There are approximately 1.3 million people in the United States injured by medication errors every year. Since 2000, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) have received more than 95,000 reports of medication errors. These reports are voluntary, however, and it is believed that the rate of error is actually much higher. Medication errors occur for a number of reasons, including miscommunication of drug orders, poor handwriting, drugs with similar names are confused or packaging is poorly designed, and even confusion of dosing units.
The FDA takes a number of measures to help reduce medication errors, including reviewing drug names, labels, and packaging, as well as analyzing reports of error and creating guidance for the industry. The FDA reviews around 1,400 reports of error per month, analyzing the cause and type of error that in turn helps the agency develop guidance for health care professionals.
In a remarkable effort to reduce these types of error, San Diego’s newest hospital, Palomar Medical Center, located in Escondido, CA, has taken substantial steps to ensure the prescription drug process is as safe as possible. The hospital has implemented a program that requires doctors to place medication orders via a sophisticated computerized system. Often times, an error may begin with the doctor’s initial prescription being incorrect or misunderstood. The system is designed to require doctors to confirm the order and the dosage as well as being for the correct patient — the computerized process is key to ensuring there are no mistakes made in the first crucial step of the doctor ordering the medication.
All of the medications are bar coded. When the nurse is at the point of giving medication to the patient, the bar code helps to once again confirm it is the correct medication, dosage and patient. The nurse will scan the bar code on the medication, the nurse’s own badge is scanned, the patient’s bar code is scanned and the system then confirms “this is the correct medication, patient and dosage that should be given at this time,” essentially giving the nurse a green light to proceed.
The effort to reduce the number of medication errors falls on all parts of the health care system, including patients. It is important to always review medications prescribed to you, making sure it is the correct medication. It is also important to fully understand the instructions provided by one’s healthcare provider and ask questions if in doubt. Often times a patient must be their own advocate. Unfortunately, even with a sophisticated system, such as the one seen at the Palomar Medical Center, errors may still occur. Human beings are not perfect.
The Maryland attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen can assist victims of medication errors, who have been injured by drugs prescribed, dispensed, or administered incorrectly. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.
More Blog Posts:
Electronic Prescriptions Help Doctors and Pharmacies Avoid Medication Errors, Prevent Fraud and Abuse, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, May 31, 2012
Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Alleges that VA Doctors Overprescribed Antipsychotic Medications, Causing Woman’s Suicide: Grese v. United States of America, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, November 30, 2012
Johns Hopkins Study Recommends Training of Nurse-Pharmacist Teams to Review Patient Drug Regimens, as a Way to Prevent Medication Errors, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, August 8, 2012