According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, medication errors are defined as preventable events that may directly cause or lead to the inappropriate use of medication or harm to a patient while the medication is being administered by a medical professional. A medical malpractice lawyer in Chicago knows that these events can largely be attributed to one thing: a combination of errors creates a potentially deadly situation for a patient.
Scope of the problem
In a landmark report titled Preventing Medication Errors, the Institute of Medicine states that around 1.5 million Americans are injured by medication errors every year. These events cost patients roughly $3.5 billion in lost wages, additional medical expenses and productivity. The FDA currently receives reports from various organizations regarding these potentially deadly errors. However, participation in the monitoring programs is strictly voluntary in Illinois and the rest of the U.S. This makes it difficult for experts to determine both the true extent of the problem and how to create a solution.
A multistep process
The failure to properly administer medications can occur due to errors made at many steps of the prescription and drug administration process. This process includes the following critical elements:
- Getting the right patient.
- Having access to accurate drug information.
- Communication between all caregivers, including physicians, nurses and pharmacists.
- Seeing and understanding drug packaging, labeling and naming.
- Properly educating staff about new drugs
A medical malpractice lawyer in Chicago understands that when a breakdown occurs in one or more of these steps, medication errors occur. For example, if a nurse fails to read the right dosage for a patient, the patient could end up with a dangerous amount of medication. This can be caused by a lack of training on new drugs and a failure to see and understand labels and names on the drugs’ packaging.
How patients can prevent mistakes
Administration errors account for the largest percentage of the issue, according to American Nurse Today. They estimate that anywhere from 26 percent to 41 percent of all events are due to mistakes in administration. Unfortunately, these mistakes are the least likely to be intercepted before an adverse event occurs. Patients can help prevent these prescription mistakes by taking an active role in their healthcare. When doctors prescribe new medications, they should ask questions about safety and how it may affect their current prescriptions. Patients should also request a thorough review on how much of each medication they are supposed to take and when.
Little is likely to be accomplished before health care workers become aware of just how severe the problem truly is. Until that time, these errors will continue to occur. Patients who have been injured, or those who have lost a loved one to a medical mistake, should contact a medical malpractice lawyer in Chicago as soon as possible for assistance.