Medication Errors Hurt Over 1.5 Million Patients

Physician's Money Digest, January 2007, Volume 14, Issue 1

A recent report by the Institute of Medicine revealed that over 1.5 million Americans are harmed each year by drug errors made in hospitals, nursing homes, and physician practices. Even more shocking is that the study revealed that on average a hospitalized patient is subject to at least one medication error per day. The institute feels that nearly a quarter of drug-related injuries are preventable. There are several possible causes for this dilemma, including the volume and convolution of various medications, dangerous drug interactions in patients taking multiple medications, illegible physician handwriting on prescriptions, hospital mix-ups, and patients misunderstanding medication instructions. The Institute of Medicine suggests a number of steps that can be taken to help stem the tide of medication errors. They advocate widespread utilization of electronic prescribing to severely cut down confusing prescriptions and negative medication interaction, along with making the computer systems used by physicians, hospitals, and pharmacies compatible. They also propose that health care workers fully confirm that patients know everything they need to know about medication use, and government hotlines should be established to help patients understand printed drug information.