Electronic records and drug labeling lead to medication errors

The electronic medical records used by healthcare workers in South Carolina could contribute to errors. Practitioners might enter medication orders on records for the wrong patients. Drug labels and packaging may contribute to mistakes as well because caregivers might mistake information on labels for dosage amounts.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices studied misplaced medication orders by analyzing electronic medical records to find medication orders that were entered, retracted and submitted again on other patients' records. This measurement provided an indication of how frequently this happens. At one large hospital system, these retractions and reorders happened 14 times a day. After applying this finding, researchers estimated that 1 in 37 hospital patients could have wrong-patient medication orders on their electronic records. Wrong-patient information often results when nurses, pharmacists and other personnel have more than one electronic record open on their computers. Interruptions also contributed to errors.

The display of drug information on computer screens could result in mistakes as well. An available concentration of drug could precede the actual dosage. In one example, a record showed that insulin glargine had 100 units of available concentration on the first line. The actual correct dosage for the patient of 6 units appeared on the second line. A physician who only looked at the first line ordered 100 units for the patient instead of 6 units.

Medication errors could produce serious side effects or even death. A person harmed by a medical mistake may wish to discuss the potential of a medical malpractice claim with an attorney. Medical litigation must meet high standards to show medical negligence, and an attorney might obtain testimony from an independent physician to build a case. An attorney may request a settlement from the responsible party to recover financial damages after negotiations or a trial.