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Understanding the cause and effect of medication errors


For a person in Boston who is given medication to treat an illness or ailment, the obvious intention is for their condition to improve or for them to completely recover. There is an inherent trust placed in a physician and a pharmacist that the proper medication in its correct dosage will be administered. However, there are times when medication errors are made. These errors can be due to giving the patient the wrong drug entirely or a mistake with the dosage. It cannot be denied that serious injury can result from mistakes in medication.

Mistakes with medication affect at least 1.5 million people each year. The costs associated with treatment after the fact is as much as $3.5 billion annually. That's not counting the people who lose time at work and must pay more for health care. Medication errors are considered preventable mistakes that can lead to a patient using the wrong medicine or the wrong amount of the medication - but what causes these errors?

These errors can happen in many different ways. Medication errors can be caused by negligence, trouble reading a doctor's handwriting, missing information, the selection of the wrong drug, gaps during the information transfer from the doctor to the pharmacy, and for many other reasons. There are times when the patient is given incorrect instructions or doesn't fully understand the instructions that are given. No one would reasonably believe that a doctor or pharmacist is intentionally making a medication error. When they happen, they must be reported to weed out doctors who frequently make mistakes and to prevent them from recurring.

Patient awareness is one of the main factors in catching preventable medication errors. While a patient is commonly a layperson when it comes to medicine, that doesn't mean there can't be a basic understanding of the medications that are being prescribed. Patients also shouldn't be afraid to ask questions when they are confused or concerned. Knowing the facts about these mistakes can save a life. Unfortunately, there is currently no possible way to prevent all medication mistakes from happening. Technology is improving and new safeguards are being implemented, but they will still happen. If they do, a person who was hurt by a medication mistake needs to understand how to proceed in the aftermath. For assistance, discussing the matter with a qualified legal professional is a wise first step.

Source: Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, "Medication Errors," accessed on Aug. 28, 2014

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