Medication Errors On The Rise
“Medical malpractice” happens in many ways. Medication errors encompass a wide range of mistakes that occur at different stages of the medication process, including prescribing, transcribing, dispensing, and administering medications. These errors may involve incorrect dosages, drug interactions, administering the wrong medication, or miscommunication among healthcare professionals. Our firm has handled numerous medication error cases. In two notable cases, a patient was given too much of a medication, causing significant harm; and in another, a patient was given an antibiotic she was allergic to, causing her to suffer tremendously from the allergic reaction. Both cases settled confidentially for seven figures.
In a Tennessee case, a nurse accidentally gave a patient a powerful muscle-paralyzing drug, causing the patient to stop breathing and later die. That nurse was convicted of negligent homicide. Criminal charges are rare following medical errors. Patient safety advocates say criminal prosecution sends the wrong message and deters hospitals from admitting medical mistakes.
Various factors contribute to medication errors, highlighting the complexity of healthcare systems and the potential for mistakes:
- Human Error: Healthcare professionals are susceptible to mistakes due to heavy workloads, fatigue, distractions, or miscommunication.
- Systemic Issues: Inadequate protocols, unclear labeling, faulty technology, or inadequate training can contribute to errors.
- Lack of Communication: Poor communication among healthcare teams, as well as between healthcare providers and patients, can lead to misunderstandings and errors.
The consequences of medication errors can be devastating for patients and their families. A patient may experience allergic reactions, worsening of their condition due to incorrect treatment, or even life-threatening complications. Beyond physical harm, these errors can also cause emotional distress, financial burdens, and erode trust in the healthcare system.
Medical errors are preventable if hospitals have the appropriate safeguards in place and, more importantly, are following them. Medication errors can be minimized through various measures:
- Improving Technology: Implementing electronic health records (EHRs) and barcode medication administration systems can reduce errors related to illegible handwriting or incorrect dosages.
- Enhanced Training and Education: Continuous education and training programs help healthcare professionals stay updated on best practices and new medications, reducing the likelihood of errors.
- Emphasizing Communication: Open communication between healthcare providers and patients, as well as among healthcare teams, is crucial to preventing misunderstandings and errors.
Each year about 100,000 patients die of preventable medical errors in the United States. Medication errors represent a significant challenge in healthcare, highlighting the need for stringent protocols, improved technology, and better communication among healthcare professionals. Addressing these errors requires a collective effort from healthcare providers, institutions, and policymakers to prioritize patient safety and mitigate the risk of harm caused by medication errors.