Monday, March 21, 2005

Avoiding Medication Errors--Make it Your Own Personal Goal

The Internet is a powerful media. Newly published articles about medication errors serves as a vehicle to build renewed and additional awareness that more than one third of the medication errors that occur in the US involves patients 65 years, and older! I had already written about this issue in 2003 to promote awareness, and call for greater care among medical assistants, who dispense medications to patients in the medical office, or a clinic where they work.

I said it then, and I say it again: when it comes to medical assistants dispensing and administering medications in the medical office, they don't have to be nervous about it, but MUST be properly trained, and know the rules and laws to do so. They must stay within their professional scope of parctice, and be responsible, and fully accountable every step of the way.

However, not only proper training, and supervision by a licensed physician, but also awareness of why medication errors happen seems to be the key to implement medication safety, and proper patient care. The most common causes of medication errors are:

1. When medications are prescribed, such as ordering medications that are contraindicated, antagonistic, or the wrong dose.

2. When medications are dispensed, such as pouring the wrong dose, or wrong drug.

3. When filing errors occur, such as pulling the wrong file, using the wrong patient's chart during the office visit, loosing, or misfiling a report.

4. When laboratory work is ordered, such as not requesting needed lab tests, making mistakes on the lab requisition slip, failing to notice that the lab performed wrong test, missing errors, or not reporting abnormal values promptly.

5. Errors in communicating with patients, such as not explaining how to take medications, or failing to make sure the patient understood all instructions.

6. Errors in communicating with other healthcare providers in different settings, especially when hospital referral, and discharge letters are not sent, or remain unfiled.

REMEMBER: these are only the most common causes for medication errors, and there is no single cause for the problem--and no single solution either. It is very important that every healthcare provider, doctor, pharmacist, nurse, and medical assistant realizes the importance of medication error detection, reporting, evaluation, and prevention, and each working professional makes preventing errors their own personal goal!

If you have any comments, please do not hesitate to post them here!

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