Common factors in medication errors

Every year, medication errors contribute to more than 250,000 deaths in Pennsylvania and the rest of the United States. These mistakes are often made at the charting and documentation stage, so it's important for doctors and nurses to keep accurate, consistent records for patients. Even a relatively minor issue like a chart written in an illegible script can lead to greater problems.

These errors most frequently occur when health care professionals fail to record pertinent information. Nurses could neglect to write down that a patient suffers from some allergy or chronic health condition. They may also fail to note that a patient has a negative reaction to a specific drug and never chart the development of symptoms. If they administer a drug, they might forget to note the dosage.

Sometimes, medications can be discontinued when doctors believe they're hurting a patient's condition. Serious issues can arise if such actions are left unrecorded. This is why nurses should attach a flow sheet to their patients' charts for staff members on other shifts to consult. Nurses should always cross-check patients' charts with doctors' orders. They should transcribe orders clearly and try not to mix up patients with the same name, room, doctor or condition.

Medication errors can form the basis for malpractice claims, which could reimburse victims for past and future health care expenses, lost time from work and pain and suffering. The family of an individual who died from malpractice can file a wrongful death suit and possibly be covered for funeral and burial expenses, pre-death medical bills and loss of support. For a claim to be successful, it might require legal assistance. Malpractice lawyers can request an inquiry with the local medical board, hire investigators of their own and then negotiate for a fair settlement.

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