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Wrong-patient medication errors threaten patient safety and lives

Unsuspecting patients in Pennsylvania who are the victims of medical errors often suffer aggravated and sometimes fatal health problems. One of the most common medical errors comes from mistakes in medication. The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority reports 813 cases of medication error from July through December 2011. Most of these were from the administration of drugs to the wrong patients, a common health-care problem. Unfortunately, some instances proved deadly.

There are two basic types of wrong-patient medication errors: an omission error for the patient who was supposed to receive a medication and an unordered drug error for the patient who actually received the medication. Although these mistakes can happen at any point in the prescription process, most of these mistakes are nurses' errors. According to the PSA data, 353 cases of wrong-patient errors happened during administration of medication, which was typically performed by nurses. Data shows that some errors arose from nurses mistakenly taking the wrong medication from storage areas. Nurses may also make an error when two patients are prescribed the same medication, but at different dosages, and fail to double check that the appropriate dosage is being administered.

Inadequate identification checks are also a factor in wrong-patient errors. The PSA report found that in some cases the identities of patients were not verified. Nurses also looked to a patient's family name to verify patients' identity, and some verified identity based on a patient's hospital room number. Both practices can lead to confusion and serious medication errors. To address patient-misidentification problems, some health-care organizations have developed various strategies that are supposed to help reduce the risks of giving a medication to the wrong patient.

Whatever its source, an individual who is injured by a medication error can file a medical malpractice claim. An experienced legal professional can provide guidance on how to pursue such a claim, which, if successful, could bring a victim much needed compensation for medical care and lost wages.

Source: Patient Safety Authority, "Wrong-Patient Medication Errors: An Analysis of Event Reports in Pennsylvania and Strategies for Prevention ," Accessed Aug. 12, 2014

Source: Patient Safety Authority, "Wrong-Patient Medication Errors: An Analysis of Event Reports in Pennsylvania and Strategies for Prevention ," Accessed Aug. 12, 2014

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