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Medication Error: Causes and Precautions


Medication Error: Causes and Precautions

Medication Error is defined as a preventable error while prescribing, dispensing, or administering a drug.  This error can occur in any healthcare center including hospitals, clinics, surgery centers, nursing homes, pharmacies, etc.

Cause of Medication Errors


Medication errors

Some of the key factors that can lead to medication errors include:-

  • Inadequate knowledge of staff about the prescribed drugs
  • Lack of patient’s knowledge with respect to the dosage of a prescribed medicine
  • Lack of awareness of side effects associated with the medicine
  • Lack of communication between healthcare professionals and patients

What hospitals are doing to prevent medication errors?

Medication errors impact the patient’s treatment progress significantly therefore, hospitals must take effective precautions to avoid any possibilities of the same. Some of the healthcare precautions include:-

  • Healthcare centers use a Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) system to enter and send medication orders and treatment instructions electronically via the computer application.
  • The medical staff ensures that the correct medications are provided to the correct patient with the correct dosage and time duration.
  • Medical practitioners review and verify each medication for the patient against the transfer order or medication listed on the transfer documents (A case when a patient is transferred from one institution to another or one unit to another).
  • Nurses on different shifts review all new medication orders to ensure that each patient’s order is noted and transcribed accurately on the physician’s order sheet and Medication Administration Record (MAR).
  • Healthcare centers ensure proper labeling, legible documentation, and record of administered medication including any side effects (allergies) associated with the drug administered.
  • Health care centers ensure accurate receivables of medication as per the demand.
  • Medical staff is trained with respect to the healthcare provider’s medication administration policies, regulations, and guidelines.

What can patients do to prevent medication errors?

Along with healthcare providers, patients can also take the following steps to avoid any complications arising due to medication errors:-

  • Patients must ensure that all their doctors are aware of the medicines they are taking.
  • Patients must take all their prescriptions of medications and supplements to doctor’s visits.
  • Patients must inform their doctors about any allergies or reactions occurring post the use of a particular medication.
  • Patients must ensure that they are able to read the doctor’s prescription themselves and if not, inquire with the doctor regarding the same.
  • Patients must try and obtain information about the medicines they are prescribed. Following are the basic questions that they must get answers to:-
  • What is the medicine for?
  • How long should the medications be taken?
  • What are the side effects of the medication? How to deal with these side effects?
  • Is the prescribed medicine safe to take with other medicines or supplements?
  • What food, drinks, or activities should be avoided while taking the prescribed medicine?
  • The medicine label must be carefully vetted by the patient upon purchase (expiry date, ingredients, etc.).
  • In case a chemist offers a substitute medicine with the same salts (since the prescribed medicine is not available), the same must be confirmed with the doctor prior to the purchase.
  • Patients must inquire about the recommended instrument to calculate the dosage of medicine (in case of liquids). For instance, people often use household teaspoons, which does not give an accurate measure. It is recommended to use marked syringes instead.
  • When patients are discharged from the hospital, they must ask their respective doctors to comprehensively explain the post-treatment plan (medication intake) that is to be adhered to.

Addressing Medical Errors to Enhance the Quality of Healthcare

Medication Error is a common occurrence in the healthcare system of our country today. In fact, one in seven Medicare patients face issues of a medical error during their treatment. These errors can occur due to the complex procedures involved in a healthcare system, lack of communication between medical practitioners and patients, negligence of the medical staff, etc. Healthcare providers must take stringent measures and incorporate strict processes to ensure that correct medication is provided to the patients. Not to forget, patients also play a vital role in tackling this error and diminishing it to a bare minimum.

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