CHICAGO, IL – The prevalence of medication administration errors continues to be a problem in the United States. Nurses play a pivotal role in the outcome in patient care. Delivering medications is a high-risk activity that involves many individuals – including physicians, pharmacists, and nurses – and errors may be a result of failures at a variety of steps before getting to a patient.
Medication error is defined as “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the healthcare professional, patient, or consumer,” according to the National Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention.
Unsafe medication practices and medication errors are the leading cause of injury and death worldwide. Globally, the cost associated with medication errors has been estimated at $42 billion USD annually (World Health Organization).
Medication errors can occur throughout the medication-use system like when a patient is prescribed a drug, entering information into a computer system incorrectly, when the drug is being prepared or dispensed, or when the drug is given or taken by the patient.
Research on Understaffing & Medication Errors
Much research on the correlation of understaffing and medication errors has been done throughout the years. While there’s still much more research to be done, one thing remains stagnant:
In one study, higher staffing levels were associated with reduced mortality, medication errors, ulcers, restraint use, infections, pneumonia, higher aspirin use and a greater number of patients receiving percutaneous coronary intervention (also known as angioplasty with stent) within 90 minutes (SAGE Journals).
A study by Columbia University found that 15% of patient-days had one shift understaffed with registered nurses. Patients in units with multiple shifts understaffed with RNs were 15% more likely to develop infections on or after the third day of exposure to periods of understaffing compared to patients in units where shifts were adequately staffed. This study also found units that were understaffed with licensed practical nurses and nurse assistants increase patients risk of infections.
It’s widely believed the occurrence of medication errors far exceeds the reports of medication errors. In one study, it was found that 19% of the doses administered in 36 institutions were errors, with 7% regarded as potentially harmful.
A study by Research Gate shows that the increasing number of registered nurses hours and decreasing or eliminating licensed practical nurse (LPN) hours can reduce medication administration errors.
Types of Medication Errors
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, common medication errors include giving medication(s) to the incorrect patient and incorrect medication(s), or error of commission. Other types of mediation errors may include:
- Wrong time
- Unauthorized drug
- Improper dosage
- Wrong dose prescription or wrong dose preparation
- Administration errors including incorrect route of administration, giving the drug to the wrong patient, extra dose, wrong rate
- Monitoring errors which may include failure to take into account patient live and renal function, failing to document allergies, or potential for drug interaction
- Compliance errors such as not following protocol or rules established for dispensing and prescribing medications
Serious Harm Related to Medication Errors
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) receives more than 100,000 reports each year with suspected medication errors. Serious harmful results can come from medication errors that may include:
- Life-threatening situation
- Birth defects
Medication errors occur when institutions have weak medication systems and/or human factors, such as fatigue, poor environmental conditions or staff shortage which affects prescribing, transcribing, dispensing, administration, and monitoring practices.
Occurrence of Medication Errors
Thorough research, studies, and analyses of medication errors in institutions have been studied throughout the years. Medication errors are more common than you think. Some statistics of medication errors that happen include:
- Medical errors of all kinds kill as many as 98,000 Americans each year, the eighth leading cause of death in the United States.
- Up to 7,000 of these deaths are attributed to adverse drug events (ADEs) from medication errors. ADEs is an injury that results from medical intervention related to a drug that includes medication errors, adverse drug reactions, allergic reactions, and overdoses.
- At least 1.5 million preventable ADEs happen in the United States per year.
- The FDA totaled 89,842 in 2005, double the amount from 1998. Fatal adverse drug events more than doubled over the same period to 15,107.
- There are approximately 1.25 million annual medication errors per year in the United States.
- Approximately 39% of medication errors occur during ordering process; 12% occur during the verification process; 11% occur during the preparation and dispensing process; and 38% occur at administration.
- Almost 1 in 5 medication doses administered in hospitals is given in error.
- Emergency departments have the third most common source of medication errors, including wrong doses and overdoses.
Contact a Medical Malpractice Attorney in Cook County, Illinois
Medication errors can cause catastrophic injuries, long-term damage to your health, or even death. If you or a loved one has experienced a medical error due to a healthcare providers negligence, you may be entitled to a medical malpractice claim. The skilled medical malpractice attorneys of Dinizulu Law Group have extensive knowledge, experience, and resources to hold negligent parties accountable. Please call our office today for a free consultation at (312) 384-1920 or visit our website for more information.