Preventing Medication Errors in the Hospital

A Michigan-based litigation attorney, Cullen McKinney is a founding partner of Tanoury, Nauts, McKinney & Garbarino, PLLC. A 2008 Super Lawyers Rising Star, Cullen McKinney represents medical professionals and hospitals in the defense of medical malpractice and has written several presentations on related subjects, including issues involving medication errors.

Medication errors can be caused by several things, from unclear dosages to patient mix-ups; regardless of what caused the error, preventing mistakes is an important part of keeping patients safe and healthy. There are several ways to prevent medication errors in hospitals, several of which occur when writing prescriptions. When indicating a medication or drug for a particular patient, writing clear instructions about dosage, frequency, and route of administration is an important part of minimizing medication error. Further, check each individual’s medication history and ask what, if any, drugs they are currently taking to ensure something is not prescribed that may cause an adverse reaction.

Using computerized software also decreases medication errors by taking out many of the common human errors. Such systems as a Computerized Physician Order Entry (CPOE) or Computerized Decision Support System (CDSS) allow for the ordering of tests, medications, and procedures through the computer, thus removing the possibility of error caused by poor handwriting. The systems also check new orders as they are made and automatically scan for negative drug interactions and appropriate doses. Implementing pharmacist-assisted rounds provides physicians with further support during the process of prescribing medication, giving them another expert source on effective medicines and doses.