Medication errors are a significant threat to patients every day. An organization devoted to preventing them just released a list of the top preventable medication errors made last year.
A 2016 study by Johns Hopkins concluded that medical errors kill up to 250,000 patients every year in the United States, making them the third leading cause of death in the country. Serious, potentially fatal medical errors include:
· Wrong-site surgery
· Hospital-acquired infection
· A missed diagnosis
Types of Serious Medication Errors
Medication errors are another leading type of medical mistakes that needlessly threaten the lives of patients. Examples of mistakes made with medications are:
· Medications given to the wrong patient
· Administering a drug in the wrong dosage
· Medications given at the wrong time or via the wrong route
Medication mistakes that harm patients are so serious there is an organization whose sole focus is preventing them. For more than 25 years the Institute for Safe Medication Practices has advocated for the proper administration of medical drugs in the United States and across the globe.
As part of this ongoing effort, in January of this year ISMP published its list of “Top 10 Medication Errors and Hazards from 2020.” ISMP explains that the seriousness of patient injuries from a medication error helped guide the list. But another key factor was how preventable the serious medication mistakes were; the organization focused on dangerous medication errors that could and should be prevented with the proper protocols in place and followed by medical professionals.
Here are a couple of those highly preventable medication errors documented by ISMP.
Opioid Prescription and Administration Errors
The nation’s opioid crisis remains very real. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 100 people die from an opioid overdose each day in the United States. So it may not be surprising that ISMP’s top medication errors from last year include mistakes in the prescribing and administering of opioids.
ISMP warns of the dangers of prescribing fentanyl patches, for example, to patients who may be naïve about this strong and potentially addictive opioid. To prevent opioid errors, ISMP recommends healthcare givers have standards in place to judge a patient’s pain status and drug tolerances, and to always start with the lowest dosage possible when prescribing opioids.
Another top medication error involves errors in preparation. A patient’s health can be jeopardized when certain medications – those that are administered via injections or through an IV – are improperly mixed and readied for administration outside the pharmacy. Typically this occurs, according to ISMP, during emergency situations by nurses and physicians who are not adequately trained.
To prevent this type of serious medication error, healthcare facilities should increase reliance on ready-to-use medications, prepared in advance by manufacturers or pharmacists.
The tragedy of medical errors is that so many die each day from them. Compounding that tragedy is that, like ISMP’s list of medication errors from 2020, serious medical errors are often preventable by establishing and following proper care protocols. When they are not adhered to, patients and their families may suffer immensely.
If you suffered significant harm or you lost a loved one unexpectedly during medical treatment, a preventable error may be the cause. Consult a medical malpractice lawyer, who can advocate for your legal rights and conduct a thorough investigation.
The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.
Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog February 17, 2021