CHICAGO, IL – A majority of nursing home residents rely on a careful treatment regimen and medication to maintain their health and quality of life. When nursing home staff including physicians, nurses or pharmacists are negligent and allow medication errors to happen, residents can suffer catastrophic harm or even death.
Despite strict federal and Illinois regulations governing the order, storage, administration, monitoring and recording or medications, medication errors have plagued the industry and are extremely common.
What is a medication error?
According to the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention (NCC MERP), a medication error is “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or a patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient or consumer.”
Medication errors can include events that cause harm to the patient, have the potential to cause harm, “near miss” events and mistakes that do not actually cause harm. These mistakes can happen at any point during treatment from prescribing and dispensing the drug to administration and monitoring.
Causes of Medication Errors and How to Prevent Medication Errors in Nursing Homes
Despite many clear long-term care medication administration guidelines, nursing home medication errors are common. Prescription errors are usually preventable and caused by carelessness, understaffing and poor management. View some of the most common causes of medication errors in nursing homes:
- Improper Administration of Medication
Many medication errors in nursing are related to incorrect drug administration. This includes using the incorrect administration technique, administering the wrong dose, giving medication to the wrong patient or administering the wrong drug.
- Poor Communication
Many medication errors happen due to poor communication between nursing staff, nurse practitioners, physicians, hospitals and emergency rooms.
- Dangerous Adverse Effects from Inappropriate Medications
Many nursing home residents take at least one prescription medication, but many have a complex drug regimen with multiple prescriptions. Older adults are already at an increased risk of adverse effects from medications, but this risk increases with multiple drugs. When a medication poses a high risk of adverse reaction or is considered unnecessary, it’s considered an inappropriate medication.
- Look-Alike and Sound-Alike Drugs
Look-alike or sound-alike (LASA) medications are easily mistaken for each other and may lead to serious harm if the error is not noticed before it reaches the patient. It’s estimated that LASA errors are involved in 6.2% to 14.7% of all medication error events.
- Poor Handwriting
Doctors are known to have illegible scrawl, but it’s a problem that can have serious consequences for patients. Research estimates 21% of handwritten prescriptions have at least one error. Even worse, a correctly written prescription can be misread or misinterpreted by pharmacists and hospital workers.
- Medication Borrowing
This happens when understaffing and poor medication management collide. During med pass, overwhelmed staff may borrow medication from one patient and give it to another to speed up medication administration. While the intention may be to replace the borrowed medication, busy staff can forget and patients may miss their dose. Medication borrowing is even more dangerous when staff fail to account for or note the borrowed medication which can lead to additional errors.
- Other Forms of Nursing Home Negligence and Medical Malpractice
There are other reasons for medication errors in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, many of which rise negligence of malpractice, including:
- Nursing home understaffing
- Negligent hiring practices
- Inadequate training of nursing staff
- Failure to implement policies to prevent medication errors
- Poor medication management including inadequate documentation, failing to order correct medications, improper medication storage or giving expired medications to patients
- Failing to treat a patient’s condition, transfer them for care or make a referral when needed
- Ignoring the stated medical concerns of a patient
- Ignoring medication orders by discontinuing medication, adding medication that was not ordered or changing a dosage
- Failing to provide a prescribed medication
- Failing to check for drug interactions
- Failing to monitor patients after administering medication
- Delegating medication administration to non-licensed staff
Who is liable for nursing home medication errors?
Prescription errors can never be completely avoided, but the majority of these mistakes are preventable. Medication errors can be considered nursing home abuse or medical malpractice when they are the result of negligence by the facility or medical providers. Multiple parties may be held liable for medication errors including:
- Prescribing doctor
- Nurses and other health care providers
- The nursing home
A medication error lawsuit can help you recover compensation for the harm your loved one suffered and make sure they get the proper medical care they need. An experienced Illinois nursing home abuse lawyer can help you investigate your loved one’s case, gather evidence and hold the responsible parties accountable. Call the lawyers at the Dinizulu Law Group now for a free consultation at (312) 384-1920.