Steps to Prevent Medication Errors
I recently wrote a blog post answering the question, “are medication errors medical malpractice?” The unfortunate reality is that medication errors are much, much too common. And the consequences of medication errors can be disastrous, leading to disabling injuries or even death. Medication errors are one of the main reasons that medical malpractice is the third highest cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer.[i]
Given how big of a problem medical malpractice has become, it is no wonder that patient advocates have taken steps to offer better protections to patients. One such way to protect patients is by creating checklists and questionnaires to guide doctors and nurses as they consider what type of medical treatment is required and necessary.
Some healthcare providers have devised a nine-step questionnaire to help prevent medication errors. According to the Medication Appropriateness Index, doctors and nurses should ask the following nine questions before administering any medication:
- Indication: is there an indication for the drug? An indication is a recognized use of the medication for treating a particular treatment. If there is no recognized indication, the drug should not be prescribed.
- Effective: is the medication effective for the condition to be treated? If the medication is not effective, it should not be prescribed.
- Co-morbidities: a co-morbidity is the simultaneous presence of more than one disease. Is there another disease other than the one for which treatment is being received that may cause a negative reaction to the medication?
- Use of other drugs: is the patient taking similar drugs for the same condition? If so, then additional drugs of the same type should not be prescribed.
- Interactions with other drugs: is the patient taking other medications for a different condition? If so, it is vital to check if mixing prescriptions can have a negative or harmful effect. It is well recognized that mixing some prescription medications can have lethal effects for patients.[ii]
- Knowing dosage: what are all of the dosage requirements for a medication based on the particular patient? This requires the healthcare providers to know the proper dosage amount, frequency, route (oral, injection, nasal, etc.), and formulation (knowing the composition of the actual medication).
- Understanding orders: what should be the prescribing physician’s correct orders for taking the medication?
- Duration of treatment: what is the proper time period of treatment? Some drugs should be taken for extremely limited durations, and doctors must be aware of such limitations.
- Economics of the drug: is the administering the drug cost effective?
If you or a loved one have suffered a serious injury due to a medication error that was caused by your healthcare provider, you should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney to preserve your rights. Depending on the injuries you suffered, you may be entitled to receive compensation for any damages you suffer. Contact experienced medical malpractice attorney Robert E. Byrne, Jr. for a free consultation about a possible medical malpractice action.