“At least 1.5 million Americans are injured or killed every year by medication errors at a direct cost of billions of dollars, according to a report issued Thursday by the prestigious Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C.”
This study, a follow up to one done seven years ago, also puts forth some proposals to help reduce the frequency (let alone severity) of these problems. Some of these are as simple as more effective medication monitoring, as well as procedures to mitigate accidental injury (according to the study, there are three quarters of a million medication-related injuries in nursing homes, for example).
Some of the more common causes are:
■ One is unexpected drug interactions.
■ Similarity between drug names
■ Legendary bad handwriting of physicians
■ Nurses giving patients drugs meant for another patient
■ Pharmacists dispensing the wrong drugs
■ Patients not understanding how to take the drugs.
And, of course, providers don’t shoulder 100% of the blame: patients share in that, as well: by withholding information about other med’s and treatments, neglecting to mention that ER visit the other week, that kind of thing.
In theory, electronic prescribing, which is still in the embryonic stage, is expected to help alleviate some of the problems. But there’s still a lot of potential for human error.