Study Shows Impact of Hospital Medication Errors Involving Injectable Drugs

A recent study examined the impact of injectable medication errors in hospitals, noting the impact of such errors on both patient health and hospital finances. Costs associated with adverse drug events (ADEs) associated with injectable medications can exceed $5 billion per year, the study found, and can affect over 1 million hospitalizations annually. The study identifies some of the drugs most likely to be involved in medication errors, and has some suggestions for improving patient safety.

A medical device company, Becton, Dickinson and Company, commissioned the study in collaboration with an actuarial consulting firm, Milliman, Inc. The study, entitled “National Burden of Preventable Adverse Drug Events Associated with Inpatient Injectable Medications: Healthcare and Medical Professional Liability Costs,” was published in the online edition of the journal American Health & Drug Benefits on December 10, 2012. It involved the actuarial review of data from the years 2009 to 2011 obtained from MEDMARX, an online system for anonymously reporting medical errors, along with hospital data on medications administered via injection, and data on insurance claims through private health plans and Medicare. The goal was to determine the incremental cost, defined as including all costs from the time of a patient’s admission to the hospital and continuing for a period of four months.

ADEs involving injectable medications occur in about 1.2 million hospitalizations each year, the researchers concluded. This includes incorrect dosages, improperly-administered drugs, incorrect drugs, and adverse reactions to an overdose or wrong medication. Hospitalizations for surgery had a 6.4% probability of an ADE related to an injectable drug, while medical hospitalizations had a 3.3% probability. On average, the researchers concluded that patients receive fifteen injections during a hospital stay, and the rate of preventable ADE is about one in four hundred injections.

The researchers also found that these ADEs increase costs borne annually by “healthcare payers” by $2.7 billion to $5 billion, for an average of $600,000 per hospital per year. The incremental cost was around $3,100 per hospital admission. Commercial health plans paid for about fifty-seven percent of those costs. The cost of medical professional liability, based on an analysis of claims related to injectable medication-related ADEs, increased by $300 million to $610 million per year, costing each hospital about $72,000.

Among the various categories of injectable medications, the researchers found the highest rate of ADEs associated with insulin. In terms of harm caused to patients, the study concluded that high-volume drugs in four other categories also carried a high risk of ADEs: anticoagulant/thrombolytic, anti-infective, anxiolytic/sedative, and narcotic/analgesic injections. Other injectable drug categories included cardiovascular drugs, electrolytes and minerals, and “other” medications.

The conclusions presented by these researchers may help hospitals identify methods of identifying and preventing common drug errors. Hospitals and medical professionals owe a duty of care to their patients to provide competent and diligent service, and to take all reasonable steps to prevent injury or harm. 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:

Pharmacy and Surgical Errors Lead to Hefty Fines for Hospitals, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, December 26, 2012
In an Effort to Reduce Medication Errors, San Diego Hospital Implements High Tech Program, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, December 19, 2012
VA Hospital Ruled Not Liable for Medication Error of Contract Anesthesiologist: Bethel v. US, Court of Appeals, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, November 18, 2012

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