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Medication Errors in Healthcare

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It is shocking to know that every year 98000 patients die from medical errors that can be prevented. Medical errors are not a new issue in our healthcare system; these have been around for a long time

Hospitals have been trying to improve quality care and patients safety by implementing different strategies to prevent and reduce medical errors for past thirty years. Medical errors are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer in America. In addition medical errors are costing our healthcare system an estimated $735 billion to $980 billion

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Medical errors could be caused by several factors but are mostly common with medical personnel that lack adequate level of experience or expertise. They could occur as a result of the health care delivery system being too complex. Sometimes fatigue among medical personnel plays a part

Sometimes medical personnel, even those with long standing experience, may get it wrong when a new procedure or complex new equipment is introduced. Patients that are of extreme age could also fall victim of medical errors. Medical exigencies such as procedures that are complex or care that is urgent may influence decision making and cause errors. Inadequacy in communication like illegible hand writing may also lead to medical errors. In addition, improperly designed health care systems may contribute to medical errors just as inadequacy in the number of medical personnel could lead to medical errors. It is often difficult to establish accuracy of statistics of medical errors and their impact because they need to have caused a measurable damage to the patient before they can be admitted in evidence. However, statistics exist which show that the problem is rather severe worldwide. Estimates are that more than a hundred and forty thousand people died from the adverse consequences of medical errors worldwide in 2013. A report published in 2000 by the institute of medicine showed that almost 100,000 people died and about a million had undue injuries in the United States from damages as a result of medical errors

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Medical services by trainees has its associated risks particularly medication errors. Lack of technical expertise, error in judgement and breakdown in teamwork are leading causes of medical and medication errors. These are particularly common among trainees (Singh, 2007). Poor training is usually responsible for inadequate technical expertise. There is a minimum standard for every specialty in medicine: medicine, nursing, pharmacy and laboratory science. However, when situations arise that is beyond the medical expertise of a professional, the person can call a superior, or commit a medical error due to inadequate skill to tackle the problem. Lack of supervision is also one of the causes of medication errors especially among trainees (Singh, 2007). It reflects teamwork breakdown between superiors and juniors

Interns and nursing students who are not well supervised by their superiors can make mistakes; in the former the prescription dosage may be inappropriate while in the latter, administration to patients may be incorrect or done at the wrong time. Santell et al (2003) prove through an internet based reporting system that 'performance deficit and procedure/protocol not followed were consistently identified as causes of error'.

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In summary, medication administration is very critical and to reduce frequent interruptions, the nurse manager should make sure that a charge nurse (a nurse who supervises other nurses without having a patient) is assigned during every shift to help nurses with minor needs such as moving or walking a patient. Nurses should be given more training opportunity to better understand the use of the BCMA as well as its functions. The BCMA is still a challenge to health care workers; on the other hand, it has helped to reduce medication errors since its adoption. Health care providers need to help reduce medication errors by putting patient’s safety first.

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Al-Assaf, A., Bumpus, L.J., Carter, D. & Dixon, S.B. (2003) 'Preventing Errors in Healthcare: A Call for Action', Hospital Topics, 81(3), pp. 5-13.

Singh H., Thomas, E.J., Petersen, L.A. & Studdert, D.M.(2007) 'Medical errors involving trainees: a study of closed malpractice claims from 5 insurers', Arch Intern Med. 2007 Oct 22;167(19):2030-6.

Santell JP, Hicks RW, McMeekin J, Cousins DD. (2003) 'Medication errors: experience of the United States Pharmacopeia (USP)

MEDMARX reporting system', J Clin Pharmacol. 2003 Jul;43(7):760-7.

Theorell T. & Bejerot E. (2011) 'Higher risk for medical errors reporting following reorganizations in health care', Lakartidningen, 108(48):2501-4.

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