Each year, in the United States alone, 7,000 to 9,000 people die from a medication error when healthcare providers are prescribing drugs. And with close to 6,800 prescription medications and countless over-the-counter drugs that are available in the United States, it’s no wonder mistakes are happening.
The total cost of treating patients with medication-associated errors exceeds $40 billion each year, and in addition to the financial costs, patients experience psychological and physical pain and suffering because of medication errors.
What is a medication error?
While there is no official, uniform definition of a medication error, The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention (NCCMERP) defines a medication error as:
And there are many types of medication errors including:
- Wrong time
- Improper dose
- Wrong dose prescription/wrong dose preparation
- Giving the drug to the wrong patient, extra dose, or wrong rate
Why do medication errors happen?
Medication errors can occur at many steps throughout the patient’s care, from when the medication is ordered/prescribed, to transcribing, to dispensing, and to when the patient is administered the drug.
Studies have shown that medication errors are most common at the ordering or prescribing stage and account for almost 50% of medication errors. These types of errors occur when the healthcare provider writes the wrong medication, the wrong dose, or the wrong frequency.
Though medication errors appear to be due to mainly to human error, it often results from a flawed system with inadequate backup to detect mistakes. Some of the most common reasons for errors include:
- Failure to communicate drug orders
- Illegible handwriting
- Wrong drug selection chosen from a drop-down menu
- Confusion over similarly named drugs
- Confusion over similar packaging between products
- Errors involving dosing units or weight
How can you prevent medication errors?
It is obvious that medication errors are a pervasive problem, but the problem is preventable in most cases.
Point-of-care medication dispensing, also referred to as in office medication dispensing, gives you the ability to prescribe and dispense medications for your patients onsite. This gives the physician time to speaking to the patient and to make sure they understand what the medication is, its purpose, the dose, whether they have any drug allergies, and they can review any other medications they may be taking to ensure there are no conflicts.
So, before a patient leaves their doctor’s office, they are getting the medication they need, which gives them an immediate start on their treatment and improves overall patient adherence.
Based on this information, not only is there a financial cost to medication errors, but there is also the cost to healthcare providers of decreased patient satisfaction and a growing lack of trust in the healthcare system in general.
If you’re a healthcare provider and you aren’t offering point-of-care medication dispensing, contact us today so we can discuss your options.