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Medication errors frighteningly common

Colorado residents may be surprised to learn just how common medication errors are, some of which can even be fatal. Something as small as a doctor moving the decimal point can lead to a deadly medication error. For this reason, hospitals have set up systems that check and double check medication orders, but according to statistics, they still happen all too frequently. Approximately one million medication errors occur annually, leading to 7,000 deaths. This means there is about one medication mistake made for every inpatient.

One way that hospitals can greatly reduce, as much as by 85 percent, of their mistakes related to medications is by using a computerized physician order entry system. In addition to the fact that it no longer requires pharmacists having to decipher a doctor's handwriting, since the orders are entered into a computer, a CPOE system also compares medication orders to a patient's information. When an order is entered, key values such as allergies, medical condition and medication dosage are looked at before a prescription is accepted by the system.

Unfortunately, when compared to other industries, many hospitals lag far behind when it comes to technology. Only about a third of hospitals have implemented a CPOE system, and this is in spite of the fact that the federal government incentivized‎ hospitals to begin using the program in 2009. Additionally, for the system to work, it requires continuing updates and adjustments, which are not consistently being done.

Individuals who have been harmed by a doctor who prescribed a wrong medication or incorrect dosage may have legal options for recourse. A lawyer could help someone pursue compensation and explain what will be involved in doing so.

Source: Forbes, "The Shocking Truth About Medication Errors", Leah Binder, September 03, 2013

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