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Four types of preventable medication errors

In Kentucky as in other states, one of the most common types of preventable medical errors are medication errors, which can involve dosage mistakes, mistakes in the route of administration, failure to administer a prescribed medication or giving a medication to the wrong patient. New research from the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority looks at that last category of medication error in depth.

According to this report, patients may receive medication dosages intended for other patients because the person dispensing the medications mixes up the patients in a shared room, receives the wrong medication from the automated dispensing equipment or disregards standard protocols for identifying the patient. Alternatively, the prescription for the medication may be inaccurately transcribed.

All four of these situations may result in patient injury, but different degrees of responsibility may be associated with the four situations, however.

In some of these situations, the person dispensing the medication may be partially liable in any medical malpractice suit. In most situations, this would be a nurse. Protocols exist for identifying patients, and when nurses disregard these protocols, they are violating accepted standards of practice. This may be deemed an individual lapse on the part of a single practitioner. In many states, legal action can also be brought against the nurse's employer.

In some situations, the error is more systemic: The nurse is still liable because the protocols that exist for dispensing medications should have prevented patient misidentification, or perhaps the error occurred because of the institutional medication delivery system. An experienced medical malpractice attorney may be able to assist individuals who have been injured by a medication error while hospitalized by analyzing the circumstances of their case to determine how the error occurred to shed light on the liable party.

Source: MedCity News, "Why are medication orders going to the wrong patients? Here are four reasons ", Stephanie Baum, June 07, 2013

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