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Research examines the risk to a patient due to medication errors

When a patient is receiving treatment for a medical issue in Illinois, he or she might not realize the frequency with which medical professionals make a mistake. These errors can run the gamut from giving the wrong diagnosis to a negligent surgeon performing surgery on the wrong patient or the wrong body part to making a mistake with medication. A fatal mistake is the third most common cause of death in the U.S. While experts are trying to put a stop to this, information is coming to light that computer systems to keep track of medications are not catching all the errors before they happen.

A nonprofit group that specializes in providing ratings for hospital safety oversaw a survey of nearly 1,800 hospitals to see how many are using computer systems for medications and how effective they are. A large number of these facilities are using these systems, but they are still missing many dangerous issues. Approximately 40 percent of drug orders that could have harmed patients were not subject to flagging as potentially dangerous. Included were medications to treat the wrong condition or the wrong dose when accounting for the individual patient.

An estimated 13 percent of these errors could have led to patient death. The Agency for Healthcare and Quality, a federal research entity, found that in 2015 one out of every 20 patients who was in a hospital was harmed due to medications. Half of those are deemed preventable. Hospitals have been advised to try and implement computerized systems for medications, but some medical professionals have resisted this because of concerns about it being hard to use or not working as well as it should.

With the improving nature of the technology that hospitals are using, the hope is that the prevention of medication errors will also improve. Even if hospitals adapt to the new way in which medications are tracked, recorded and provided, it is inevitable that mistakes will continue. If a person is harmed or dies due to a missed diagnosis or a mistake with medication, the ramifications can be significant. The family of a person who was harmed in this way must be aware of how to move forward with a medical malpractice lawsuit to seek compensation for the error.

Source: khn.org, "Hospital Software Often Doesn't Flag Unsafe Drug Prescriptions, Report Finds," Shefali Luthra, April 7, 2016

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