Medication errors are caused by many things. With so many factors it can seem like a daunting task to avoid them. The FDA has indicated that drugs with very similar names, drugs with similar packaging, and sometimes even a physician’s bad handwriting all contribute to medication errors. In the emergency room getting the right drug, in the right dose, to the right patient is critical. For some hospitals, the answer might be as simple as putting pharmacists in emergency rooms.
Every year there are 7000 deaths as a result of medication errors. That trend has led the emergency department at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas to staff 10 full-time emergency pharmacists. Their primary focus, to review every medication and verify that it is the correct dose of the correct medicine for the correct person. The pharmacists are on call 24 hours a day and act as a safety net for doctors as they move from patient to patient in the ER.
Each week the emergency pharmacists at Children’s Medical Center review 20,000 prescription orders. Every order is reviewed in real-time before any medication is dispensed or given to a patient. The pharmacist is able to compare the order with the patient’s medical record, their stats, any allergies they have, and any medications they are on which might cause a reaction. That extra level of review can be especially important when dealing with children who are at higher risk for complication when there is a medication error.
Right now many hospitals can’t afford to create robust emergency room pharmacy staff. However, finding ways to increase prescription reviews should be something every hospital is looking very closely at. Whether it is adding emergency pharmacists or improving their electronic medical records systems, studies are beginning to show that increased prescription review helps to bring down the number of hospital readmissions. Hiring pharmacists or upgrading to electronic medical records is expensive, but over time it helps save hospitals money and keeps patients safe.
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