Introduction to medication errors

When the beneficial results of medication are well-known, it is but natural for healthcare organizations and other institutions to implement and maintain error-free systems that help them save money and time. An effective way to address this is by installing error alerts in nursing care facilities and other medical units. However, how do you report medication errors? In order to understand how to report this kind of issue, it is helpful to first understand what a medication error is.

What is medication error?

A medication error may be defined as a deviation from standard procedures or specifications in administering or using a specific drug. Although it is not intentional, it presents a serious concern not only to the physician but also to the patient and the pharmacists. It can lead to adverse effects such as nausea, dizziness, confusion, agitation, depression, memory loss, skin rash, and more. When such adverse effects occur, the patient has the right to report the event to the pharmacist or the hospital’s Drug Safety Information Management Program (DSIP). The DSIP is responsible for analyzing and interpreting data on all reported drug safety events. If the deviations in the standard procedure are deemed unacceptable by both the physician and the pharmacist, pharmacy technicians must handle the case with the utmost professionalism and responsibility.

Pharmacy staff are required to follow strict rules in prescribing drugs and handling medications in hospitals and clinics. They are required to follow the right drug formulation, amount, and contraindications. Failure to do so may cause patients and other individuals harm and damage to their health.

How to report medication errors?

How to report medication errors?
Medication errors

First, you should ensure that all pertinent information is documented. This includes all details, the reasons why the drug was prescribed, and all events where the drug was improperly administered. Next, you should identify how the adverse drug event happened. For instance, you should include the name of the prescribing physician, the date and time of event, the identity of the patient, the drug quantity or strength dispensed, and the symptoms and/or complications that occurred. You should also describe how you as a pharmacy staff responded to, observed, or investigated the problem.

Another step on how to report medication errors is to learn what kind of actions your senior pharmacist would have taken during the time when the mistake occurred. This includes identifying the problem, your role in it, and the corrective actions taken. For instance, if the mistake was made when dispensing insulin, you can discuss whether your senior pharmacist should have insisted that the proper amount is prescribed and monitored closely. If you failed to follow this prescription, you may be held responsible for a lawsuit against you regarding negligence and/or pharmacist fraud.

Whether the harm resulted from an error in the dispensing of a specific drug, a breach of the medication’s instructions, or an error in the administration of the medication, it is vital that you as a healthcare professional are able to report the mistake and learn from it. Your willingness to do so will not only ensure that you as a healthcare professional are more competent and safe, but it will also ensure that the harm is minimized if not completely prevented. When you as a healthcare professional are made aware of the most common causes of medication errors, you can avoid them by educating yourself, as well as the other healthcare professionals who are entrusted with the care of patients.