Reducing errors in the administration of medications is a significant concern in all types of healthcare settings because such errors affect the safety of patients and increase the costs of care.
In the United States, about seven million people each year are the victims of medication error, which costs the nation’s healthcare systems a total of $21 billion annually. In addition, such errors keep patients in the hospital longer, as well as increasing rates of mortality and morbidity. One-fourth of all medication errors are preventable.
Addressing high-risk medication error can often be problematic because there can be several factors that increase the risk of error. These include age, renal impairment, chronic disease, comorbidities, the number of drugs a person is taking, and the high-risk drugs being administered.
Eliminating Errors in Hospitals
Incomplete medical histories, the necessity of close monitoring, and complex disease conditions are among the causes of medication error in hospitals. To reduce the chances of such error, safety experts recommend the following:
Healthcare organizations should have someone in charge of overseeing medication safety, to guide staff in best practices, and to create safety programs.
The concentrations of medications in the hospital formulary should be standardized and limited. The hospital should rely on national guidelines, where possible. This will help to prevent errors that arise from faulty dosage calculations, reduce waste, and optimize inventory.
Hospitals should have a plan in place for dealing with drug shortages, as well as for situations where medications are only available in a different size, dosage, or concentration than what is prescribed.
Other procedures for medications should also be standardized, activities such as ordering, storing, preparing, and administering the medications. Access to high-risk medications should be limited, and there should be several levels of safeguards, including extra labels and automated alerts.
Pharmacists and other healthcare professionals also need to take the time to counsel patients about their medications. Patients need to know the name, frequency, dosage, and indication of each drug they are taking, as well as how long the treatment will last.
Other Safety Strategies
There are additional steps that pharmacists and other healthcare professionals can take to reduce errors, no matter what setting they work in.
One is to create a safety-conscious work environment where staff are encouraged to look into all reports of medication error and use those reports as learning opportunities for improvement.
They should create procedures for reviewing errors that occurred in other healthcare environments and use that information to assess the susceptibility of such errors occurring locally.
They should hold regular safety meetings to keep staff up to date on safety issues and strategies.
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