Every year, over 30 million Americans are admitted to hospitals. While in the hospital, they are almost always prescribed medications intended to treat their condition. Unfortunately, due to medication errors, these medications will often do more harm than good due to medication errors.
However, medication errors in the hospital setting are rampant. It has been estimated that there is on average one medication error per patient per day. In fact, some reports have argued that nearly three out of four patients at some hospitals go home with either the wrong prescriptions or a very limited knowledge about the medications they‘re taking, which often leads to readmission and adverse drug reactions.
When medications errors occur in hospitals, they not compromise our confidence in the health-care system and increase our health-care costs. Most importantly, they jeopardize patient safety. In those cases where a medication error has led to serious injury or wrongful death, it is important to determine whether medical negligence was to blame.
Ripe Circumstances for Medication Error in Hospitals?
According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), in-patient hospital care is unique because of the “special collaborative processes” that occur in hospitals. Unlike other areas, hospitals see pharmacy and therapeutics committees working in conjunction with health-care providers. This “multidisciplinary” approach means that hospital medication errors can be committed by a variety of staff members, including pharmacists, nurses, pharmacy technicians, medical students, ward clerks, administrators, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and even patient caregivers.
Hospital medications are also unique in that they often take a variety of forms, including both oral and injectable products, radiopharmaceuticals, anesthetic gases, dialysis fluids, investigative drugs, drug samples, and even medicines that patients have brought into the hospital with them.
This means that errors may be committed in the prescription, administration and application of medication at every stage and level of the patient care process.
Common Medication Errors Occur in Hospitals
Due to the multifaceted nature of the hospital setting, the types of medication errors often are varied. They can include: prescribing errors, dispensing errors, medication administration errors, and patient compliance errors. When errors are “detected and corrected through intervention” from another healthcare provider before they can have adverse effects on patients, they‘re called “potential errors.” These errors occur before they reach patients, so they don‘t lead to medical harm.
Hospital Medication Errors are Preventable
The ASHP favors a behind-the-scenes system for people who work in hospitals and deal with patient medications. It recommends that hospitals institute specific organizational systems for “ordering, dispensing, and administering medications” to limit any medication errors. Such a system would require that different hospital factions work together. They should be designed to reach across the many departments that exist in hospitals to encourage communication among pharmacists, health-care practitioners, and health-care administrators.
In addition there is a need to better educate patients. Often, patients only get a “quick drug rundown” from their nurse before being discharged, and as a result they don‘t understand how to effectively take the medication they‘ve been prescribed. If a major problem with medication errors is “non-intentional non-adherence” on a patient‘s end, then hospital personnel need to educate patients about the medications they‘re taking, how to take them properly, and whether those medications can have any adverse reactions to other medications or lifestyles.
Know Your Rights
It‘s important to keep in mind that hospital medication errors are distinct because they involve many different professional departments, extending from physicians and nurses at the hospital, out to pharmaceutical manufacturers who provide samples for various forms of medications for in-patient use.
If you have been a victim of a hospital medication error, it is important to speak with an attorney experienced in medical malpractice to determine if and against whom you might have claim for medical malpractice.