Medication errors can be highly dangerous for patients, leading to severe drug interactions, adverse side effects, or even death in extreme cases. These errors can arise from various causes, ranging from simple issues like illegible handwriting to more complex factors. Here, we delve into the most common types of medication errors and their potential consequences.
- Dosage discrepancies: Incorrect dosage is a significant concern that can have immediate and long-term effects. An overdose can lead to toxicity, requiring emergency intervention, while an underdose can render a treatment ineffective, prolonging illness and suffering.
- Nomenclature confusion: Doctors may sometimes prescribe incorrect medications that phonetically resemble the intended drug. This is not just a simple mistake; it can be life-threatening, especially if the incorrect drug has adverse interactions with other medications the patient is taking.
- Informational oversights: Doctors must consider a myriad of factors when prescribing, such as potential side effects, drug interactions, and the patient’s medical history. Failure to do so can result in inappropriate medication choices, which can be detrimental to patient health.
- Erroneous dispensing: Even with a correct prescription in hand, the pharmacist may dispense the wrong medication. This error can go unnoticed until the patient experiences unexpected side effects, by which time considerable harm may have occurred.
- Labelling confusion: Inaccurate or incomplete labelling can create ambiguity. For instance, if the label lacks clear dosage instructions, the patient may end up taking too much or too little of the medication, both of which are problematic.
- Route mismatch: Medications often have specific administration routes. For example, some medications are less effective when taken orally but work well when administered intravenously. Using the wrong route can compromise the medication’s effectiveness and may even cause harmful side effects.
- Wrong timing: The timing of medication administration can be crucial. Some medications need to be taken with food, while others should be taken on an empty stomach. Administering medication at the wrong time can significantly impact its effectiveness.
- Missed dose: Although a missed drug dose can seem inconsequential, its effects might be profound. It can adversely affect a treatment plan’s efficacy, resulting in less-than-ideal health outcomes and rising medical costs.
- Falsifying medical records: Not only is it ethically wrong, but altering medical records to hide an error is also against the law. Such dishonest actions may have serious repercussions, including legal action.
- Incomplete medication records: It can pave the way for risky assumptions and errors in further patient treatment. For example, if a patient’s allergy data is incorrectly recorded, they can be exposed to allergens and experience severe allergic reactions.
Note: The importance of effective communication in healthcare settings cannot be overstated. Drastic effects might result from misunderstandings between family members, poor communication between doctors and nurses, or improper instructions given to patients by healthcare professionals. For instance, a nurse misreading a doctor’s prescription because of illegible handwriting can give the patient the incorrect medication or dosage. Furthermore, a lack of communication amongst healthcare professionals throughout a shift can lead to a misreading of crucial prescription schedules or particular instructions.
Looking for ways to prevent medication errors?
Explore electronic medication administration records (eMAR) system. eMAR’s alert system ensures that medication is administered on time, every time. With real-time notifications, healthcare providers are reminded of upcoming doses, minimising the risk of missed medications and enhancing patient outcomes. Also, the eMAR platform streamlines the auditing process with its comprehensive month-end reporting feature. This allows healthcare facilities to easily track medication administration records, ensuring compliance and facilitating quality assurance.