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Medication errors can be avoided

Medication errors are by far the most common mistakes hospitals make and they can be deadly. Experts believe that about one million medication errors happen every year, resulting in about 7,000 fatalities. These numbers could fall considerably if hospitals would update their technology.

Computerized physician order entry, or CPOE, technology could help improve hospital safety and prevent as many as 85 percent of the errors. CPOE systems allow doctors to enter patient information into a computer as well as the type and dosage of the medication prescribed. The computer then checks to see if the medication prescribed is safe for the patient's particular condition. If so, the CPOE system sends the request to the pharmacy. Since the information is entered into a computer, the pharmacist does not have to struggle to read the doctor's handwriting.

The federal government has offered financial incentive for hospitals that install CPOE systems, but the policy does not require hospitals to test the CPOE systems and monitor them for safety. When tested for safety, some CPOE systems failed to alert staff to medication errors 50 percent of the time. There is only one such evaluation available to hospitals that want to test CPOE systems for safety.

Some experts say that hospitals are driven by profit motives and choose to invest in more profitable systems before installing and testing CPOE systems. Vendors of these systems, as well, may be thinking of the bottom line more than patient safety. An attorney who is experienced in matters of medical malpractice may be able to secure fair compensation for those who suspect that medication errors may have led to the death or injury of a loved one.

Source: Forbes, "The shocking truth about medication errors", Leah Binder, September 03, 2013

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