Medication Errors and Medical Negligence: 6 Facts You Should Know
September 13, 2014
While medical negligence and malpractice can manifest in various ways, one of the most dangerous and prevalent ways it has appeared in medical facilities throughout the U.S. is in the form of medication errors. Because more than 80 percent of Americans reportedly take at least one medication (and nearly 30 percent take at least 5 different medications), understanding how and when medication errors occur – as well as what can be done to prevent them – is critical to minimizing the severe damage tha this type of medical negligence can cause.
In this article we’ll point out some important facts to know about the prevalence and impacts of medication errors in the U.S. If you or someone you love has been hurt as a result of medication errors, don’t hesitate to contact the Portland medical malpractice lawyers at the Savage Law Firm for a professional case evaluation and expert advice regarding what you can do to obtain the compensation you likely deserve.
Here’s What You Should Know about Medication Errors in the U.S.
Fact 1 – More than 1.5 million Americans are injured as a result of medication errors each year.
In fact, according to research published by American Nurse Today and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Every day in the U.S. at least one medication error takes place per hospital patient.
- Medication errors are the number one cause of inpatient fatalities.
- While about 20 percent of medication errors that impact critical care patients result in life-threatening injuries and complications, more than 40 percent of these errors require complicated life-sustaining treatments.
- Every year in the U.S., medication errors end up costing about $3.5 billion in additional medical expenses, lost productivity and lost wages.
The bottom line here is that medication errors in the U.S. often result in life-threatening complications and that they have significant economic impacts.
Fact 2 – Nearly 1 in every 3 medication errors occurs during the administration of medications.
The process of administering medication to patients is complicated and involves multiple steps, only some of which include:
- Properly diagnosing patients
- Appropriately prescribing medications to patients
- Correctly transcribing and dispensing prescriptions to patients
- Carefully administering medications to patients
- Continual monitoring of patients’ response and health.
At any point in this process, human carelessness or negligence can result in serious medication errors. While some of these potential mistakes are caught by medical professionals – like pharmacists or nurses – before they end up impacting patients, unfortunately:
- About 30 percent of all medication errors in the U.S. take place as medication is being given to patients.
- Too many medication errors are never intercepted, which ultimately results in patients being injured.
Fact 3 – The incidence of medication errors is projected to increase in the coming years.
According to the Medication Safety Program (a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC), the incidence of adverse drug events and medication errors is expected to increase in the near future due to a combination of:
- An increasing number of new medications being available on the market
- The likely expansion of uses for currently available medications
- The aging of the Baby Boomers
- The trend of prescribing medications as a part of disease prevention (rather than simply for treating conditions that already exist)
- Insurers broadening their coverage of prescription medications.
All of these factors ultimately seem to point to the fact that more and more people will likely be taking more prescription medications in the near future, opening up the possibility for an increasing number of medication errors to occur in the U.S.
Fact 4 – Medical professionals’ fatigue is a significant issue and risk factor contributing to medication errors.
Fatigue and sleep deprivation are inherently associated with reductions in vigilance, information processing, the ability to make good decisions and memory. With nurses and other medical professionals often working long hours (both in a single shift and with the high incidence of double shifts), the risks that fatigue will contribute to medication errors are substantially high.
What can be just as distressing as the link between fatigue – an entirely preventable factor – and the incidence of medication errors in clinic and hospital settings is that fact that fatigue also impacts medical professionals’ abilities to:
- Recognize the physical symptoms patients may develop after being exposed to medication errors
- Promptly and properly respond to such symptoms to minimize the impacts of medication errors on patients.
Fact 5 – Medical professionals’ vigilance and the use of some technology could significantly reduce the incidence of medication errors in the U.S.
Given how prevalent and dangerous medication errors are in the U.S., many researchers and medical professionals have worked hard to determine what can be done to reduce these errors, improve patient care and ultimately save more patients’ lives. In general, the two main factors that can play a critical role in reducing medication errors, according to the current general consensus in the medical industry, are the improved vigilance of medical professionals and the more wide-spread use of technology to monitor the process of administering medications.
More specifically, a focus on improving the following issues may end up having substantial impacts on reducing medication errors in the U.S. (according to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices):
- Better information about patients’ medical histories, particularly in the diagnostic process
- Clearer, easier to understand information about medications, especially when it pertains to the info on drug labels and packaging
- Better communication between medical professionals and patients
- Better training and education for medical professionals who prescribe, administer and/or distribute medications to patients
- Better quality-control processes and risk management strategies to deal with potential medication errors.
Fact 6 – After being injured by medication errors, people can turn to the Portland medical malpractice attorneys at the Savage Law Firm.
While all of the previously discussed facts about medications errors in the U.S. are eye-opening and illuminating, the most important fact that people should know about medication errors is that, if or when they occur and result in injuries to patients, people can rely on the Portland medical malpractice lawyers at the Savage Law Firm to:
- Determine if or how medical negligence and malpractice may have contributed to these errors
- Advocate their rights and hold the negligence medical professionals’ responsible
- Help them obtain the compensation they likely deserve.
Portland Medical Malpractice Lawyers at the Savage Law Firm
Have you been injured due to medication errors that may have been caused by medical negligence? If so, it’s time to contact the Portland medical malpractice attorneys at the Savage Law Firm. Our team of trusted lawyers has been successfully resolving various types of malpractice cases over the past three decades, and we are ready to put our experience, legal knowledge and resources to work for you.
To learn more about our legal services and what we can do for you, call us at 503-222-0200 (in Portland) or at 206-957-7272 (in Seattle). You can also email us using the form on this page.
We represent clients in communities in both Oregon and Washington from our offices in Portland and Seattle.