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Emergency room pharmacists may minimize medical malpractice cases

Medication and dosage errors are among the harmful and sometimes deadly mistakes that lead to medical malpractice suits in Florida and throughout the country. Now, an emergency department in one medical facility is taking steps to minimize medication errors and potentially dangerous drug interactions. These errors alone contribute to over 7,000 fatalities annually in this country

At Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, pharmacists review each medication prescribed to patients. The facility has 10 emergency pharmacists on staff available around the clock. This is more than any other medical facility in the U.S. According to the medical center’s chief quality officer, all medication orders are reviewed immediately by a pharmacist in the emergency room before being administered.

While medication errors can be harmful for anyone, they can be particularly dangerous for children. As one physician at Children’s put it, children are not “just little adults.” They “have completely different metabolic rates that you have to look at.”

Medication errors aren’t just caused by physician error. The incorrect medication or dosage can be given because of illegible handwriting, medications with similar names or packaging or improper dosing units. In emergency rooms in particular, where speed is a factor, any of these can be a problem.

Many of our readers may remember the case of actor Dennis Quaid’s twins who were mistakenly given a far greater dosage of a medication than was intended. As reported in the Los Angeles Times back on Dec. 5, 2007, Quaid and his wife sued the manufacturer of a blood thinner over the design and labeling of its product that led to nurses giving their newborns a dosage of the drug 1,000 times greater than intended. The same thing happened to another child at the hospital. Fortunately, none of the children reportedly suffered health issues as a result of the overdoses. However, Cedars-Sinai, the Los Angeles hospital where the overdoses occurred, said that multiple safety lapses led to the improper dosing.

According to one expert in emergency medicine, not all hospitals have the resources for the type of program used at Children’s. This is particularly true for small ERs where “it’s hard enough just to have adequate staffing for your patients…let alone to have a pharmacist sitting down.” However, it could be worth the cost if it reduces readmissions and, more importantly, saves lives. The potential savings in medical malpractice costs alone may make it financially worthwhile.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, “Hospitals Put Pharmacists In The ER To Cut Medication Errors” Lauren Silverman, Jun. 09, 2014

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