Medication errors are a leading cause of harm for patients in New York and across the United States. According to the National Institutes of Health, hundreds of thousands of Americans suffer adverse reactions and health complications as the result of drug dispensing mistakes each year. Sadly, between 7,000 and 9,000 of those individuals die.
Common drug dispensing errors
With nearly 6,800 prescription and over-the-counter medications available in the U.S., it’s not surprising that mistakes happen. The NIH reports that almost 50% of errors occur at the prescribing stage. Examples of these errors include doctors prescribing the incorrect medication, the wrong dose, or an improper frequency for a patient.
Other common errors include:
- Administration mistakes, such as giving medication to the wrong patient, through the wrong route or at the wrong rate
- Monitoring mistakes, such as failing to watch for organ failure, allergies or drug interactions
- Compliance mistakes, such as failing to follow proper protocol for dispensing and prescribing medications
According to the NIH, nearly 75% of all medication errors are caused by distractions. Other common causes include prescription distortions, illegible handwriting, negligence, forgetfulness, hurrying and carelessness.
How to prevent medication errors
To prevent medication errors, experts say doctors should issue electronic prescriptions instead of written ones whenever possible. Physicians can also reduce the risk of mistakes and medical malpractice claims by:
- Writing down the precise dosage
- Using metric measures
- Considering the patient’s age
- Monitoring kidney and liver function
- Providing clear instructions
- Avoiding the use of abbreviations
Experts say patients should ask their doctor questions about each new drug they are prescribed. By clarifying the medication’s name, purpose, dose and possible side effects, they can help protect themselves from harm.