Prescription errors

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: October 17th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The vast majority of patients who receive medications while in health-care facilities like hospitals and nursing homes get the appropriate medicine and dose, and are generally healthier for it. But sometimes the message that goes from prescribing doctor to pharmacist to the health-care professional who dispenses the drug gets lost in translation causing what are known as “drug errors.”

A new Institute of Medicine report states that one-and-a-half-million U-S patients are harmed by drug mistakes every year. The study looked at errors that occurred in nursing home facilities, doctor’s offices and hospitals. One key finding? A hospitalized patient, on average, is at risk for one medication mix-up per day. The Institute of Medicine first began putting pressure on health-care facilities six years ago to improve the distribution of medicines, but medication errors are still a big problem.

Medication errors that are preventable can pile at least fifty-eight-hundred dollars onto a single patient’s hospital tab. Taking all assumed errors into account per year, the cost can soar past three-billion dollars. One recommended solution shouldn’t be a huge surprise in the age of BlackBerrys and P-D-As: The institute says that all prescriptions should be originated electronically by 2010. Currently many physicians still write their prescriptions by hand. An even tougher pill to swallow… the report did not even take into account personal medicating errors, another huge problem unto itself. One key to preventing dire consequences? Ask your pharmacist about proper use when you pick up your prescription.