Medication Errors Harm ‘Substantial’ Number of Patients, Study Finds
A study of 184 hospitals and health systems in calendar year 2000 found more than 1,200 reports of medication errors that resulted in patient harm, including three deaths, Newsday reports. The second annual MedMARx report, released Monday by U.S. Pharmacopeia, a not-for-profit health safety organization, represents 3% of the nation's hospitals. The report, based on a voluntary system that tracks medication errors in hospitals, concluded that the "number of patients harmed by medication errors each year is likely to be substantial" (Lane, Newsday, 5/21). The report, which analyzed 41,296 medication errors reported in 2000, also found:
- About 69% of medication errors reported reached the patient, while 31% did not;
- The medication errors reported "most frequently" included errors of omission, "improper" dose or quantity and "unauthorized drugs."
- About 60% of the reports cited one cause for a medication error, while 40% cited more than one cause. The
"top causes" cited included "performance deficit," failure to adhere to procedure or protocol or "inaccurate or omitted" transcription (USP release, 5/20).
"These recurring trends indicate that while progress in reporting errors is being made, the same types of errors are occurring again and again," Diane Cousins, a USP vice president, said in a statement. She added, "This tells us that there are deeper, more systemic causes for these errors." Anne Berdahl, senior associate director of the American Hospital Association, said that medication error prevention "really will take a change in culture." A number of hospitals have implemented computerized physician order entry systems, such as hand-held prescription pads, to reduce the number of medication errors, Newsday reports. However, Berdahl said, "It's not as simple as changing handwriting into a computer entry," adding that "such systems are complex" and cost about $5 million per hospital (Newsday, 5/21). The MedMARx 2000 report is available online.
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