Medication errors are not only common, but they are also highly preventable.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency has heard nearly 30,000 accounts of drug errors that consumers in Virginia and elsewhere have experienced since 1992. Of course, the actual number of adverse drug events that happen every day is even higher, as not every incident gets reported.
In many cases, these mistakes - which can lead to serious injury and even death - could have been prevented. Medical providers, drug manufacturers and consumers all have a responsibility to maintaining patient safety, starting with these five steps:
1. Use computerized systems.
Human error is one of the easiest ways a drug mistake can occur. A doctor scribbles a number on a piece of paper, and another staff member interprets a "7" for a "2." This quickly devolves into a potentially dangerous situation in which someone receives the wrong dosage, the wrong medication or the drug at the wrong time.
Through using a computerized system, the margin of error can be greatly reduced. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, computers especially can eliminate mistakes related to handwriting and dispensing medications.
2. Double and triple check information.
Before giving a patient any drug, medical staff should check two or three times to ensure that the medication, patient and dosage are all correct. Children, for example, may be more susceptible to a dosage mistake because the amount given is often based on weight. Taking just a little more time to review information and ascertain its accuracy can go a long way in keeping patients safe.
3. Secure a comprehensive medical history.
There are several components that are essential to preventing an adverse medication event. One of the most important is that a physician has access to a patient's medical history, which should include any allergies to medications as well as a list of other drugs the person is taking. Certain prescriptions may have dangerous side effects for a patient who is allergic, or the medication may not mix well with another drug already in the person's system. Through having all the information, a physician is best equipped to make a safe decision for treatment.
4. Provide clear communication.
When a doctor prescribes a medication, a patient should know what the drug is, what its side effects are and how to safely take it. Medical providers should always discuss each of these topics before sending a patient to the pharmacy. Pharmacists can also answer a patient's questions and ensure he or she knows how to safely take the medicine.
5. Pay attention to drug labeling.
Lastly, there have been large strides made in recent decades to clearly label medications with side effects, potential warnings and dosage information, especially when it comes to over the counter drugs. Following those guidelines is a must for consumers. Additionally, drug manufacturers must adhere to federal guidelines when it comes to providing consumers with accurate information.
When negligence plays a role in a patient's injuries, he or she is permitted to pursue compensation through legal means. Anyone with questions about this issue should speak with a medical malpractice attorney in Virginia.