Five Rights to Prevent a Serious Wrong

drugs syringe pixlr

When it comes to serious medication errors, the failure to follow the five patient rights can lead to one consequential – even fatal – wrong.

Medical errors are estimated to be the third leading killer in the United States, with medication mistakes a highly preventable yet common example. To prevent serious medication errors, there are five widely acknowledged patient rights to keep in mind.

The five patient rights for proper and safe drug administration are:

  • Administering the right drug
  • Administering to the right patient
  • Administering the right dosage
  • Administering at the right time
  • Administering by the right route

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 2 million U.S. hospital patients each year suffer an adverse drug event – patient harm occurring during drug - and adverse drug events account for a third of all hospital adverse events of any kind.

Administering drugs to hospital patients is a process involving many people: from doctors who prescribe them, to pharmacists who fill prescriptions, to nurses administering them. There can be many missteps along the way that lead to a serious medication error.

Steps for Doctors and Nurses to Take to Prevent Serious Medication Error

To prevent a life-threatening drug mistake, healthcare providers should verify the five patient rights throughout the process. Here’s a closer look at each of them.

Administering the right drug means double-checking prior to giving the patient the medication.  Always confirm the label and the bottle.

Healthcare providers need to authenticate the patient’s identification prior to drug administration in the hospital. This involves the commonsense steps of checking the patient ID bracelet and asking the patient his or her name.

Giving the right medication but in the wrong dosage can harm a hospital patient.  Therefore, the doctor’s orders should be carefully reviewed.  Any issues, such as indecipherable handwritten notes, that can lead to an incorrect dosage need to be clarified.

Drugs are meant to be given at a certain time and frequency.  So those administering drugs should check with patient records as to when the last time a medication was administered.  This is especially important between staffing shifts.

There are several ways to administer medication to a patient, so healthcare providers need to check prescribing orders to verify the proper drug administration route, such as oral versus intravenous.

Steps for Hospitals to Take to Prevent Serious Medication Error

In addition to these five patient rights, in 2018 the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists published its own framework for avoiding harmful drug errors (“ASHP Guidelines on Preventing Medication Errors in Hospitals”).

Targeted to hospital pharmacists and administrators, these guidelines are more wide-ranging than the five patient rights. They include:

  • Thorough planning – prioritizing medication safety with a clear process and identified responsible parties throughout
  • Proper storage and bar coding of medications that help eliminate selecting the wrong drug or the wrong dosage
  • Obtaining accurate medical information and history at the patient admission stage
  • Steps to avoiding transcription errors that include illegible handwriting or wrong drug abbreviations
  • Pharmacist review of medication orders to avoid incorrect drug, route, dosage mistakes
  • Proper and clean environmental conditions for preparing medications
  • Emphasis on patient monitoring for any harmful side effects

There are established roadmaps for doctors, nurses and pharmacists to follow when administering medications to hospital patients. Unfortunately, it can just take one team member who disregards such measures to put a patient in needless jeopardy from a catastrophic drug error.

When a medical mistake is made, it’s not always easy to identify and hospitals may be uncooperative.  If you had a family member die during a hospital stay and you suspect an error was the cause, turn to a medical malpractice attorney who is experienced in conducting thorough investigations into what went wrong and why.

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

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Articles August 27, 2020

Related Practice Areas

Jump to Page

By using this site, you agree to our updated Privacy Policy and our Terms of Use.