We’ve talked before about the consequences of medication errors, but never why they happen in the first place. To err is human. That is the title of an Institute of Medicine report into medication errors. When you’re a doctor or a pharmacist, however, a mistake when issuing drugs to a patient could be fatal.
There is no doubt that people make mistakes, whatever profession they are in. However, medical professionals do not have that luxury. They and the health establishments they work for need to have a series of checks in place to ensure errors they pick up on mistakes.
Here are some of the top reasons for medication errors found by The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) in 2019.
- Trusting the computer: If you have ever sent a message with predictive text turned on and pressed send without checking, you know it can lead to embarrassing errors. When the doctor’s computer system guesses the drug they want to prescribe based on the first three letters, and the doctor fails to check, the consequences can be deadly.
- Relying on the label: When in the grocery store, it can be easy to pick up the wrong packet, as many food manufacturers copy their more successful rivals’ designs. If a pharmacist relies on the label’s look rather than reading the writing on a pack of drugs, they could make a grave error and issue the wrong pills.
- Misheard instructions: Whether over the phone or in an operating theatre, sometimes drugs are given to a patient based on what someone heard someone else say. When many medications have similar, often long names, there is scope for mistakes. Medical staff must double-check they heard correctly.
If a pharmaceutical error has harmed you or a family member, seek legal help. Medicines that work wonders when issued correctly can have severe side effects when given to the wrong person or prescribed in the incorrect quantity or frequency.