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Common factors in medication errors

Even with advances in digital record-keeping technology, healthcare professionals are liable to make mistakes that in turn lead to medication errors. Medication errors account for more than 250,000 deaths in Florida and the rest of the U.S., according to a 2016 study from Johns Hopkins University, so it's important that nurses and other professionals know what factors often contribute to these errors.

The failure to record essential information is usually to blame for subsequent errors. For example, nurses may neglect to note when a drug was administered, by what route, and in what dosage; whether a patient has drug allergies or chronic health conditions; when a drug is discontinued; and what nursing actions were taken on a daily basis. Nurses are encouraged to supplement patients' sheets with a flowchart of their actions, which the next staff member can review before seeing the patient.

Nurses may have reason to believe that a patient is receiving drugs that are not on the sheet. In such cases, they should actively inquire into the matter before the patient's symptoms get worse. Every change in a patient's condition should also be documented. Nurses should make sure not to mix up patients who share the same room or even the same name. Even a minor concern like the legibility of one's handwriting can affect the risk of error.

Receiving the wrong drug, not enough of a drug, or too much of it can result in serious injuries. If it can be proven, though, that the healthcare professional neglected to live up to the standard of care, the victim may be able to file a successful malpractice claim against the facility. This is where a malpractice lawyer may be able to help by requesting an inquiry with the medical board, and negotiating for a settlement. Lawyers may also decide to litigate, though this is an option of the last resort.

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