New Technology Could Reduce Medication Errors

Taking-Pills-300x225Medication errors, in which patients take the wrong medication or the wrong dosage, send hundreds of thousands of people to US emergency rooms annually. New technology, however, could help reduce the risk of these potentially serious errors.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School recently analyzed the effect of new software on medical error rates. They studied the medical records of more than 800,000 persons, and analyzed the impact of the software that was specifically designed to minimize the risk of mistakes during the prescription process.

The software, developed by an Israeli company, utilizes an approach that aims to point out errors in the medication prescribing or administration. For example, a drug that is typically used in pregnant women, but has been prescribed for an elderly male, is an anomaly that would not typically be identified or pointed out. The software however, finds these mistakes and according to the researchers, provides a very innovative way to notify healthcare personnel of such errors before they have any chance of adversely affecting the patient.

The findings of the study were recently published in the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association. The study specifically compared this new software to traditional systems used to reduce prescription errors. The researchers found that while traditional systems can only point to a fraction of the errors that happen every year, the new technology could also help identify errors that would slip through under the traditional methods. Additionally, the traditional methods result in many false alarms, and as a result, doctors disregard many of the warnings that are delivered through these older methods. This risk is non-existent with the software.

According to some studies, approximately one-third of all adults take four or more types of medication. In any given week, at least four out of five adults use some type of medication, including prescription medication, over- the- counter drugs and herbal supplements. With medication use as high as this, the potential for errors, like wrong dosages, over dosage, wrong medications, drug interactions, dispensing errors, and administration errors is always high.

Doctors and medical personnel can help reduce the risk of such errors by using patient-specific identifiers to ensure that the right patient is administered the right medication. Protocols should be in place to require patients to provide information about their medical history, including information about any other drugs that they are using, before any drug is prescribed. More care should be taken when medications are being prescribed for people with certain highly critical conditions, like diabetes, kidney disease, psychiatric disease or liver disease. Doctors should also take into consideration the patient’s history of alcohol consumption, smoking status, and other factors that impact medication dosages.

Ensure that you have access to updated information about the drugs that you take most frequently, including any changes to guidelines governing their use, administration routes, precautions and contraindications.

The Indiana medical malpractice lawyers at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson & Kennedy, LLP represent persons who have been injured as a result of medical negligence across Indiana. Contact them today to learn how they might be able to help you.