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Too often, medication record systems fail to protect patients

The Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research, a federal agency, estimates that 5 percent of hospital patients experience harm due to a medication error. Adverse drug events lead to more than 100,000 hospitalizations every year. The agency estimates that half of these injuries could be prevented. This is scary news to any person who takes prescription medications.

In recent years, hospitals across the United States have invested substantial resources to develop electronic health records. In theory, electronic health records should reduce the risk of harmful and fatal medication errors. In reality, there is still a long way to go.

The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization, surveyed 1,800 hospitals to see whether electronic records systems are ensuring patient safety. When completing the survey, the Leapfrog Group used fake patients and fake drug orders to test the hospital's record-keeping systems. Their findings showed these systems failed to identify 40 percent of prescriptions that could harm patients. Even worse, the systems failed to detect 13 percent of potentially fatal errors.

How can hospitals reduce medication errors?

This study highlights some of problems that could result from relying completely on automated medication record systems. One way to potentially reduce the number of errors is for hospitals to regularly use fake patients and fake drug orders to test their systems. By doing so, hospitals can refine their systems, reducing errors as a result.

Manual reviews are also important. Before giving a patient medication, hospital staff must double-check to make sure a patient receives the right dose of the right drug. Although electronic records systems are important, this study shows that doctors, nurses and hospital staff cannot wholly rely on these systems to serve their patients.

If you or someone you love has been harmed by a medication error, you may have a medical malpractice claim. For years, the injury attorneys of Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor have helped people across Delaware.

Source: Hospital Software Often Doesn't Flag Unsafe Drug Prescriptions, Report Finds, Kaiser Health News, April 7, 2016, by Shefali Luthra

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