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Patients often not informed of hospital medication errors


Posted by Thomas Pettinicchi of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on Jan 25, 2013 in Doctor Errors

Hospital patients should be able to trust the care they receive will keep them safe and be in their best interest. Yet a recent study revealed that errors in medication given to hospital patients do occur and in rare cases, can be serious or fatal.

People in Connecticut and throughout the U.S. may be surprised to hear of some cases of medical malpractice that have gone on in hospitals, the most common of which pertaining to medication is hospital staff forgetting to give patients their medications. Even more serious mistakes include errors involving IV lines and giving patients the wrong doses of their medications.

The most at risk are patients in a hospital's Intensive Care Units (ICU), where the majority of errors occur. Of the medication errors reported over a six-year time span in 537 U.S. hospitals, 56,000 of them happened in the hospitals' ICU.

Luckily, 98 percent of the medication errors in the report did not lead to a patient being harmed. However, about four percent of the errors that occurred in ICUs did result in patient harm, compared with about two percent in non-ICU wards. One reason for this may be the more fragile condition of ICU patients and the greater intensity of the treatment they receive.

Surprisingly, more than half the time no action was taken after a medication error and only about 33 percent of hospital staff responsible for medication errors were immediately informed of their mistake. As for the patient and the patient's family, they are only informed of a medication error about two percent of the time, despite literature supporting full disclosure and their desire to be informed.

The lead author of the study says it would be premature for patients and their families to be concerned about the findings of the study, adding the study is helpful to medical personnel to gauge how they are doing. However, this is a good reminder for people to realize that mistakes do happen in the hospital, and it is important to hold those responsible for the errors accountable.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Patients rarely told about medication errors," Andrew M. Seaman, Jan. 11, 2013