Most Common Medication Errors in the Healthcare Industry

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Medication errors in the healthcare industry cause needless injury, suffering, and death.

Our medication errors lawyer explains the five most common mistakes he sees in the healthcare industry.

What is a medication error?

A medication error is a mistake, problem, or decision that may result in the inappropriate use of a drug and harm to a patient. It may occur in any setting, including when medication is in the hands of the consumer. Some errors are the result of medical malpractice.

5 Top Medication Errors in the Healthcare Industry

1. Improper prescribing – prescribing or failing to prescribe

Drugs should be prescribed only when they are likely to benefit the patient and when the benefits outweigh the risks. Prescribing a drug – or failing to prescribe it – may be a medication error.

Medical professionals must have the knowledge and skill to determine when to prescribe a drug and in what strength. They must know what factors to consider, including the patient’s age and health history and whether a certain medication poses a high risk.

Another error that may occur with prescribing medication is with duration. A patient may receive a drug for too long of a time period, or they may be given a drug for too short of a period. A patient’s medication should be reevaluated as necessary.

2. Wrong drug, dose, or preparation

A medication error occurs when a patient is given the wrong drug. Many drugs sound and appear similar. A healthcare professional may not read the information carefully or perform the necessary checks. The result may be that the patient fails to receive the drug that they need, and they receive the wrong drug instead. Both problems may cause harm to the patient.

In addition to giving the wrong drug, a healthcare professional may administer the wrong dose of a drug or prepare it wrong. Giving the wrong dose or strength of a drug is usually the result of human error. Dispensing errors may occur if a drug is not administered in the proper manner.

3. Administration errors

A medication error occurs when a drug is given to the wrong patient. A patient may not be able to verify their personal information.

In addition, medication errors occur when a patient is given an extra dose or if they are given a dose at the wrong date or time. Dosing errors may lead to complications when there are other factors, like whether medication should be taken with food, that are done incorrectly because of the mistake. Instructions may be given incorrectly, the person dispensing the medication may not understand instructions, or they may not follow them. The result may be patient harm.

4. Drug interactions

Some drugs interact in dangerous ways. A person prescribing a drug must know what medications the patient is taking to avoid harmful interactions. A healthcare professional should get a patient’s health history to avoid prescribing medicines that may cause harm when taken together. In addition, there should be systemic checks to identify potential drug interactions.

5. Expired or deteriorated product

If a drug expires or deteriorates, it may harm a patient. Drugs have storage instructions to prevent spoilage. Even when drugs are stored properly, they may expire. Improper storage procedures or expiration of a drug may cause a medication error.

Source: Tariq, Vashisht, Sinha, Scherbak, Medication Dispensing Errors and Prevention, National Library of Medicine (last update: 2023).

How Common Are Medication Errors?

Medication errors claim 7,000-9,000 lives in the United States each year. Hundreds of thousands of victims suffer interactions and adverse effects because of medication errors.

Mistakes are sadly common, occurring throughout the healthcare system in hospital settings, residential care, and outpatient treatment.

What can be done to prevent medication errors?

Steps that can be taken to prevent medication errors include:

  • Checking and double-checking patient and prescribing information
  • Having a system that checks for similar patient names and drugs that may sound similar
  • Adequate staffing, giving staff sufficient time to work, eliminating distractions
  • Communication between healthcare professionals
  • Professional training about mistakes and what can cause them
  • Getting a patient’s personal health history and allergy history
  • Ensuring that patient information is available and accurate
  • Keeping detailed records of patient care

Even with the best of intentions, medication errors may still occur. They may be the result of a lack of:

  • Knowledge
  • Care
  • Time
  • Supplies
  • Attention

A poor workplace culture may contribute to medication errors. Healthcare professionals may be asked to work without the needed staffing, equipment, and supplies. They may face stress and retaliation when they raise concerns. When a medical error is the result of negligence or more serious misconduct, it may be the basis of a claim for compensation.

Is a medication error medical malpractice?

Part of administering competent healthcare is ensuring that the proper medication is given to the correct patient, at the right time, and in the correct dose. A medication error may be medical malpractice. In South Carolina, the standard for malpractice is doing something that a reasonable healthcare provider would not do or failing to do what a reasonable healthcare provider would do.

Any healthcare provider involved in the administration of medication may be responsible for an error, including a physician, nurse, or pharmacist. Nursing homes are categorized as healthcare institutions in South Carolina’s medical malpractice law.

Whether a medication error is medical malpractice and whether you may receive compensation depends on the circumstances. What occurred, why it occurred, and how the patient was harmed are all important questions for a medical malpractice claim based on medication error.

The victim must bring their case and prove their right to compensation.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you have been a victim of a medication error in the healthcare industry or if a loved one has been harmed, please contact us. When someone suffers injury or death because of a medication error, they may receive financial compensation. Bobby Jones Law represents victims and families to investigate, build your case, and claim your compensation.

To talk to a lawyer about your situation and get legal help today, contact us.

The team at Bobby Jones Law LLC works tirelessly for the injured in South Carolina. His achievements include:
  • More than $60 million collected for our clients
  • Multiple recoveries exceeding $1 million, including an eight-figure settlement
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We’re humbled to be considered one of the top firms in the Upstate and invite you to learn what sets our award-winning legal services apart. Call or request a consultation online.
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