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Simple list comparison can reduce medication errors

Miami patients put a great deal of trust in the doctors, nurses and hospitals that treat them. If a condition is diagnosed, a patient believes that the diagnosis is accurate. If a surgery is performed, patients believe it is necessary. Likewise, when medication is prescribed, patients expect that they will not be harmed. Unfortunately, when the wrong medication is given to a patient, complications can arise. For this reason, the findings of a Johns Hopkins University study carry great importance and should not be taken lightly.

According to the study, medication errors can be drastically reduced when nurses and pharmacists work closely together to discover discrepancies in a patient's medication regimen. This includes considering what medication the patient is taking at home and at the hospital.

About 40 percent of the patients in the study faced inadvertent medication discrepancies. When nurses and pharmacists were paired together to address potential medication discrepancies, these numbers were reduced. Nurses simply consulted a list of medications the patient was taking at home and compared it against the medications being administered to the patient at the hospital, as well as any newly prescribed medicines upon the patient's discharge. Any potential discrepancies were then brought to the attention of a doctor or pharmacist for resolution.

The Johns Hopkins study reveals how easily medical malpractice based on medication errors can occur. When a patient takes the wrong medication or an unexpected medication interaction occurs, serious injury or death can result. A serious injury can in turn lead to a worsened condition or disability that requires long-term care. Victims may be left struggling to pay their medical bills.

Fortunately, legal remedies exist for victims of medical malpractice. Through a medical malpractice lawsuit, a victim may be able to recover compensation for medical expenses, rehabilitation, medical equipment, pain and suffering and lost wages. In the tragic case of death, a victim's family may be able to obtain compensation to cover funeral costs.

The Johns Hopkins study highlights how easy it is for hospitals to avoid medication errors. Yet, these simple preventative measures have yet to be fully implemented at all hospitals. It is, therefore, up to the law to hold medical professionals accountable for any harm that results when such measures are not taken.

Source: Baltimore Business Journal, "Hopkins study: Nurses, pharmacists should work more closely," Sarah Gantz, Aug. 1, 2012

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