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The causes of medication errors and strategies for prevention

On Behalf of | Jun 27, 2022 | Medical Malpractice

Medication errors are common, and the effects can be disastrous. There are various causes of these errors, and they range from prescribing the wrong medication to administering the incorrect dose.

Mistakes may be due to negligence by the prescribing doctor, the pharmacist, the provider administering the medication and even by the patient. There are strategies that can prevent many of these errors from occurring.

Data regarding medication errors

According to the National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, almost 9,000 people die annually due to medication errors from over-the-counter and prescription drugs. Hundreds of thousands experience complications or adverse reactions. Along with the pain and suffering of patients, the costs associated with these errors are more than $40 billion a year.

Common causes of errors

Errors can happen at any step along the way regarding patient care. 50% of errors occur at the prescribing or ordering stage, which may include the doctor prescribing the wrong medication or incorrect frequency of intake. Administration errors occur when a healthcare professional gives medication to the wrong patient or gives too much.

Medication errors may occur due to monitoring negligence, such as not recording allergies, failing to take into account drug interactions and not considering renal or liver function of the patient. Compliance error by the patient is also a cause of adverse reactions.

Prevention strategies

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality discusses some of the strategies that may help reduce medication errors:

  • Reviewing patient history to ensure medication will not interact with other meds or medical conditions
  • Computerized ordering to prevent errors regarding handwriting
  • Using color codes or unique lettering to differentiate prescription bottles that look similar
  • Barcode administration to ensure the correct patient receives the medication
  • Smart infusion pumps for infusions

Because administration errors are common, nurses or other administering providers should minimize interruptions and review the “Rights” of medication safety before each administration.