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813 Medication Errors Over Six-Month Period for Pennsylvania Patients

David W. Hodges
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Posted on May 13, 2013

Patients face risks every time they enter a hospital for medical treatment. Unfortunately, breakdowns can occur at any step along the way from filling prescriptions to delivering the correct dose of medication to patients. When this happens, patients may receive someone else’s medication or the wrong dose of the drug.

A recent study was released by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority that exposed that 813 wrong-patient medication errors were logged during a six month period in 2011. The report revealed most medication errors at hospitals occurred during the administration of drugs; the errors usually involved nurses selecting the incorrect drug from a medication cabinet. Nurses were also found to have given patients medications intended for other patients because they failed to perform patient identity checks before administering the medication.

The report also brought to light the fact that many medication errors were made when paper prescriptions were improperly transcribed onto patients’ medical records. About five percent of the medication mistakes took place when the medication was being dispensed and typically involved a medication labeling error. According to the report, this took place when a patient-specific label was affixed to the wrong prescription package.

The Safety Authority reported that out of all these medication errors, only four errors resulted in harm to the patient. However, the outcome of this study confirms that everyone at hospitals including doctors, nurses, and pharmacists need to improve their processes and do a better job of getting patients the correct medicine in order to reduce medication mistakes and patient harm.

The report also recommended bedside bar scanning to help reduce medication mistakes. This process allows nurses to scan the drug and a patient’s bracelet to confirm the right drug and the right patient before administering medicine.  

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