Hospital Pharmacists and Medication Errors

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What role should pharmacists play in preventing serious medication errors?  In a hospital setting, one study shows they can have a major impact in protecting patients from severe harm.

According to a whitepaper from the National Center for Biotechnology (“Medication Dispensing Errors and Prevention”), 7,000 to 9,000 people in the United States die every year from a medication error. Medication errors are a common type of medical error.  A 2016 Johns Hopkins University study asserts that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the country.

“Right” Drug Administration Process

Generally, medication errors occur when any of the five “patient rights” are not adhered to during drug administration:

·         Right medication given to the patient

·         Medication given to the right patient

·         Medication given in the right dosage

·         Medication given at the right time

·         Medication administered via the right route

According to the American Pharmacists Association, pharmacists play a key role in protecting patients from serious medical errors.

The organization identifies several areas in which pharmacists impact medication safety, including:

·         Supplying medication information to patients and doctors

·         Evaluating medication appropriateness

·         Performing medication management services- reviewing all the medications a patient is taking to ensure they safely work together

·         Coordinating care transitions

These responsibilities apply to community pharmacists and those that work in a hospital.

The inpatient drug administration process involves many different people: the doctor who prescribes the medicine, the nurse or other healthcare provider who administers the medicine, and the pharmacist who fills the drug prescription.

Any error made during this process can potentially pose a serious risk to a patient.

A new study focuses on the role pharmacists play in preventing serious drug errors with hospital patients.

Prescribing Errors Made in Hospitals

Preliminary findings of the study from the American Journal of Health System Pharmacy (“Pharmacist Intervention on Prescribing Errors: Use of a Standardized Approach in the Inpatient Setting”) were published online in July. The study included documented cases of prescription errors caught by pharmacists in 11 hospitals over a six-week period.

In those six weeks, hospital pharmacists intervened in nearly 7,200 medication errors. The top three medication errors that accounted for nearly a third of all the drug administration mistakes were:

·         Wrong dose

·         Wrong rate

·         Wrong frequency

The potential harm to patients from the medication errors was evaluated and categorized as either low, serious, or life-threatening.

Researchers determined that nearly half of the medication errors (47%) were potentially serious and almost 3% were life-threatening.

The medication errors in this study were all caught by hospital pharmacists before any patient harm occurred.  But that’s not always the case, as thousands of families unfortunately can attest to each year.

If you or a loved one was the victim of a serious medication error – or any other preventable medical error – speak with a personal injury lawyer about holding accountable all those responsible.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Blog August 20, 2021


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