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Simple fix could greatly reduce prescription errors

Continuing our theme from our last post about medication errors, it appears that a new tactic for fighting serious and possibly fatal prescription mistakes could save thousands of lives -- if only it were widely used. Unlike the medication error that we talked about in our last post, which seems to be perpetuated by sheer ignorance and laziness, the medication errors we're talking about today come from confusion and the simple fact that people are bound to make mistakes now and then.

Medication errors can be caused by a number of individual factors, or they can be caused by a combination of these factors. Sometimes the prescription is misspelled or misread by medical staff members, leading to the wrong prescription or the wrong dosage of the prescription being handed out to a patient. 

Sometimes a doctor's handwriting may be too difficult to interpret, or the packaging of a prescription drug confuses a doctor or pharmacist.

Sometimes the metric or dosing units are misinterpreted, leading to complications for a patient taking a certain prescription.

One hospital is taking a simple approach to cut back on these prescription errors: bring in 10 full-time emergency pharmacists to work at their ER, with an integral part of their job being to double- and triple-check prescription filings to ensure no error is made. Though it seems to be working in this single case, most ERs and hospitals don't use such a method because they lack the funding to do so.

Prescription errors can be fatal, and even if the patient survives, the mistaken drug or dosage can change their life forever. They can wrongfully incur huge medical costs to correct the issue the prescription error caused. This tactic used by the hospital in this story seems like such a simple way of preventing these unfortunate errors -- but if it isn't going to be widely used, then the victims of prescription errors may need to turn to the civil courts to earn justice for their suffering.

Source: NPR, "Hospitals Put Pharmacists In The ER To Cut Medication Errors," Lauren Silverman, June 9, 2014

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