A 2006 report from the Institute of Medicine showed that medication errors cause injuries to 1.5 million people annually in the United States. The cost of these errors is reflected in the $3.5 billion due to additional medical expenses, lost wages and productivity.
Up to 32 percent of the total medication errors are due to administration, and most medicines are administered by nurses. Ten primary elements that influence medication use have been identified by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. They are:
- Drug information: Current, accurate information on all medications have to be readily available to nurses and other caregivers.
- Patient information: Using barcode scanners on patients’ armbands confirms their identity and reduces incidents of medication errors. But barcode technology isn’t failproof, and other checks and balances should be put in place as well.
- Staff education and competency: There really is no adequate defense for employing poorly trained, incompetent nurses. Compulsory continuing education courses can inform nursing staff about new medications and protocols, as can their attending pharmacy grand rounds.
- Adequate communication: Lack of communication is responsible for over 60 percent of primary causes of sentinel events. Eliminating communication barriers must be prioritized.
- Drug packaging, labeling, and nomenclature: Eliminating similarities in drug packaging and medications that look or sound similar is a goal.
- Medication storage, stock, standardization, and distribution: Errors can be avoided by limiting availability of floor-stock medicines and access to high-alert pharmaceuticals.
- Drug device acquisition, use, and monitoring: Improperly acquiring, monitoring and using drug delivery devices can cause medication errors.
- Environmental factors: Cluttered work areas, inadequate lighting, increased patient acuity, caregiver fatigue and distractions can increase medication errors.
- Patient education: Teaching patients the names of all medications, their appearance and dosages, along with side effects and treatment usage can reduce medication errors.
- Quality processes and risk management: A safety culture should be the desired environment of all health care facilities.
If a medication error caused you to suffer needlessly, you may pursue justice via the South Carolina civil courts.
Source: American Nurse Today, “Medication errors: Don’t let them happen to you,” Pamela Anderson and Terri Townsend, accessed Sep. 04, 2015