FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2013-01-17
Most patients who are admitted into the emergency room do not come to the hospital with a detailed list of the medications they are taking at the time. For obvious reasons, it can be challenging to obtain accurate information regarding medications from people who are in need of emergency medical care. Nevertheless, accurate medication information is typically critical for physicians to provide the best possible care for the patient. In many cases, if a doctor fails to obtain enough information regarding a patient’s medication history, the care the doctor provides could actually harm the patient.
In an effort to reduce these potentially life-threatening medication errors, a study was recently conducted to determine the effectiveness of having pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in the emergency department.
The study revealed that introducing pharmacy staff to the emergency department significantly improved the medication information received from patients. The researchers examined cases involving 185 patients and 1,750 medication discrepancies. The medication discrepancies included:
- Lack of data regarding when a certain medication was last taken
- Incomplete or inaccurate orders
Of those discrepancies, 55 percent were due to data missing regarding the date and time when the patient had last taken the medication. On average, there were 9.5 discrepancies per patient.
The test group of patients was later questioned about their medication history by a pharmacist or pharmacy technician. According to the study, the pharmacy staff frequently spent 15 minutes discussing medications with the patient. The pharmacy staff typically asked specific questions to ensure they had accurate information regarding the type of medication and the dosage prescribed to the patient.
The researchers found that the patients who spoke with pharmacy staff had an average of only 0.2 discrepancies after being questioned by the pharmacist. In contrast, the control group — who did not speak with pharmacy staff — had an average of 2.4 errors per patient.
Physician liability for medication errors
When a doctor or pharmacist prescribes inappropriate medication or the wrong dosage of a medication to a patient, the consequences can be severe, and even fatal. In such situations, the doctor or pharmacist may be held liable for their actions.
If a doctor fails to obtain a detailed medication history from the patient and prescribes a medication that causes harm, he or she may be found to have been negligent. Similarly, pharmacists may be found negligent if they do not fill a prescription as written by the physician.
If you or a loved one has suffered harmful side effects due to a medication error, consulting with a skilled personal injury attorney will ensure your rights are protected.