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Protecting Idaho Patients From Medication Errors

Idaho medical malpractice attorneyMedication errors are alarmingly common in the United States. The Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives reports that adverse drug events impact more than seven million patients every year.

About one-third of all patients in a hospital setting have at least one medication discrepancy at the time their medications are reviewed for discharge. Medication errors can harm Idaho patients and cause them to incur financial losses.

How Medication Errors Occur

One reason why medication errors are so prevalent is because there are many different ways in which they can occur. A doctor might choose a medication that is not appropriate for the patient’s condition, or one to which the patient is allergic. The prescription may be written incorrectly or illegibly. It can be improperly dispensed by pharmacy staff (such as by using the wrong drug, the wrong dosage, or putting the wrong label on the medication).

The medication may have been improperly manufactured by the pharmaceutical company, resulting in contamination or other problems, which no doctor or pharmacist could prevent. And even if a medication is properly selected, prescribed, manufactured and dispensed, errors can still occur if the patient is not adequately supervised by a doctor. Most medications require ongoing monitoring to ensure they are having the intended effect with no adverse consequences.

A Pediatric Problem and Prescription Medications

Medication errors can be particularly problematic for pediatric patients. A child’s low body weight and undeveloped internal organs can make it more difficult for the body to synthesize a medication or dosage that was improperly administered. Because of this, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a policy statement recommending the creation of a standard pediatric medication formulary, as well as clinical decision support, in order to reduce errors in emergency departments.

MedPage Today spoke with a nursing association chairman about the proposed policy changes. He noted that many children cannot be taken to pediatric emergency facilities. Rather, most injured and ill children are taken to community hospitals, where emergency departments may not treat many children. Inexperience in treating pediatric patients can increase the likelihood of medication errors.

A Pharmacist Solution

Other risk factors for emergency department medication errors include medically complex cases (such as patients taking multiple medications which may not all be known to ER staff), orders that are verbal instead of clarified in writing, and a chaotic overall environment characterized by frequent interruptions.

Interestingly, some studies have found that emergency department medication errors can be reduced when a pharmacist is integrated into the treatment team. A study reported in the Annals of Emergency Medicine found that, of all medication errors intercepted in one emergency department, about one in three had been identified by a pharmacist.

Regardless of the cause of a particular medication error, injured patients have legal rights to compensation for this and other negligent medical care. Vulnerable patients, such as children and older adults, can be particularly susceptible to the effects of a medication error. An Idaho medical malpractice attorney can help injured patients hold medical professionals accountable for dangerous medication errors.

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