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Many prescription errors could be prevented with better oversight

It goes without saying that medication errors can be devastating for New Mexico patients. Receiving the wrong dose of a prescription -- or the wrong medication altogether -- can turn a potentially life-saving medication into a potentially deadly poison. Unfortunately, these errors are not all that uncommon. Estimates hold that about 7,000 people in the United States die each year due to medication errors. With all the technology available to hospitals, shouldn't that number be close to zero?

It should, but it isn't there yet. One big factor is the lack of adoption of these technologies. The federal government has pushed for facilities to use electronic medical records and features such as computerized physician order entry, known as CPOE. This technology checks a prescription that has been entered against a database of the patient's information to make sure the prescription is safe and accurate.

Facilities that use CPOE have reported a drop in medication errors to the tune of 85 percent. However, relatively few hospitals have fully implemented this technology. In many cases, it comes down to money. Hospitals are often more interested in boosting their bottom lines than investing in technology that costs a lot to implement.

In most cases, patients are required to seek health care at a hospital that is part of their employer-sponsored insurance plans -- which may or may not include facilities using CPOE. Regardless of the level of technology, New Mexicans are entitled to expect competent treatment when they are ill -- and they can often hold medical professionals accountable for serious errors that are made.

Source: Forbes, "The Shocking Truth About Medication Errors," Leah Binder, Sept. 3, 2013

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