Medication errors are common at the prescription stage of a patient’s treatment and occur throughout the medication system. It can occur when:
- Prescribing a drug
- Upon keying a patient’s information in the computer system
- Preparing the drug
- Dispensing the drug
- Giving the drug to the patient
- The patient is taking the drug
Medication errors can have adverse effects, which may include:
- Life-threatening health conditions
- Hospitalization of the patient under treatment
- Life-long disability
- Temporary disability
- Congenital disabilities in newborn babies
Possible Causes of Medication Errors
Getting distracted while attending to patients
Physicians have several duties that demand their attention while in the hospital. They are expected to examine patients, order laboratory tests, study images received, speak to consultants, make rounds to review their patients, speak to patients, and the family members, among other duties.
It is possible thatcan also happen even to the finest physician in practice. Amidst all these demands, they are requested to prescribe drugs and make orders for a client. A lapse of judgment can develop, and a medication error occurs.
Unscheduled events such as attending a meeting, answering a phone call can disrupt a physician’s attention while writing a client’s medication. Consequently, healthcare givers are advised to order at a specific time after making rounds to the patients. This minimizes the occurrence of making medication errors.
As the physician is making patients’ daily reports, other clinicians are urged not to disturb the doctor. This further enhances concentration and reduces the chances of medication errors.
A patient’s medication can be distorted by a physician’s poor handwriting, misinterpretation of symbols, using uncommon abbreviations of drugs, and incorrect translation.
If healthcare professionals are from a foreign country, it is common for them to write medical orders unavailable in that region. In such cases, the physician may ask the attending nurse or physician to issue a substitute medication for the prescribed drug. This may lead to a medication error.
Physicians are advised to adhere to the list of medications used in their formulary and know what is available in their hospital facility.
Illegibility of the physician’s handwriting
For decades doctors have been akin to poor handwriting. Owing to their busy schedules, physicians often scribble down medication orders in illegible handwriting: the nurses and pharmacists are left to make the best guess of the doctor’s medication. This easily results in medication errors.
Hospitals have set rules that all drug orders must be legible, and if not, the pharmacist can request the physician to rewrite the order. The challenge has also been resolved using computers to write all medical records, notes, and prescriptions that have to be done electronically. Physicians are advised to take precautionary measures to reduce medication errors.