Residents of Illinois may know that medications ordered in the fast-paced environment of emergency rooms may contain errors. The errors, according to a new study, are responsible for many deaths each year, and hospitals have taken a new approach to diminish this number by adding full-time pharmacists to the ER staff.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, some of the common causes are illegible handwriting, dosage errors and commonality of medication packaging. Children are particularly at risk for medication errors because their metabolism operates at a different speed, making errors even more dangerous. One children's hospital noted in the study has 10 pharmacists on call 24 hours a day to monitor ER medication orders. In a single week, the pharmacists review about 20,000 prescriptions and incorporate such things as the child's weight and allergies to screen for potential problems.
Another study revealed that 25 percent of prescriptions written for children contained errors. Outside of the ER, scripts pass through a multi-layered system that may pick up mistakes. The immediacy of ER orders does not lend itself to a system that requires time. While more emergency rooms across the country are adding full-time pharmacists, the expense limits this to facilities with a bigger budget.
While mistakes happen, when a medication error results in an injury to a child it may constitute negligence by the hospital system and doctor, particularly since medical authorities are increasingly aware of the issue. In preparing a medical malpratice suit, an attorney may review hospital data to determine the steps, if any, that could have been taken to prevent a mistake.
Source: WBUR, "Hospitals Put Pharmacists In The ER To Cut Medication Errors", Lauren Silverman, June 09, 2014