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Hospital attempts to cut down on deadly ER medication errors

Pennsylvania residents may be interested in the steps that one hospital is taking to prevent injury to patients due to medication errors. These methods, however, may not be able to be replicated by many hospitals due to budget concerns.

Reports indicate that over 7,000 people are killed due to medication errors every year. This can include a dosage mistake, a dangerous combination of prescriptions or any number of other errors. These mistakes happen for many different reasons, such as a failure to read a doctor's handwriting properly, drugs that sound alike and confusing package designs on the drugs. Medication errors in children are three times as deadly as they are for adults, due to the physiological differences between the two.

One hospital, however, is attempting to stop these errors in their emergency department. The Children's Medical Center located in Dallas, Texas, has added 10 pharmacists working full-time in their emergency room. They also have pharmacists on call at all times. After every medication has been prescribed by a doctor, but before they are dispensed, one of the pharmacists double checks it. This, in tandem with a computer system that also checks the prescriptions, work to reduce or eliminate medication errors. The process is used for almost 20,000 prescriptions every week.

For smaller hospitals and emergency rooms, this extra staff may not be economically feasible. Hiring full-time and on-call pharmacists is expensive. In situations where a wrong prescription or other prescription error gets through and causes injury or death, an attorney may be able to help. The attorney may be able to help assess the situation and bring a lawsuit against the party responsible for the error, which could include both the doctor and the hospital that employs them.

Source: NPR, "Hospitals Put Pharmacists In The ER To Cut Medication Errors", Lauren Silverman, June 09, 2014

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