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Hospital medication errors not always detected

North Carolina residents who have been hospitalized were likely given many different types of medications during their stay. While physicians have the responsibility of prescribing the correct medications and dosages for the condition being treated, hospital personnel have the responsibility of ensuring that the orders are correctly filled and administered. Any misstep along the medication chain, from pharmacist to administration by the attending nurse, may lead to a patient becoming harmed.

The results of a survey released by a nonprofit group that rates patient safety in hospitals reported that while most facilities use a computer program designed to catch medication errors, they are not completely effective. The study, which used fictitious patients and fake drug orders, showed that nearly 40 percent of the medications that were potentially dangerous were not given a red flag by the program.

In addition, 13 percent of the medication errors were dangerous enough to have killed an actual patient. The types of errors revealed in the study included potential drug interaction, wrong dosages and medications prescribed for conditions that patients did not have. Although the study deemed that the computer systems that report dangerous interactions and other problems are not foolproof as yet, other checks are in place to avoid problems, although they vary from hospital to hospital.

It has been estimated that medical errors trail only heart disease and cancer as a leading cause of death in the United States. Not all errors constitute medical malpractice, however, and an attorney for the surviving family members of a patient who has died in a hospital will conduct a thorough investigation to see whether there was a failure to exhibit the requisite standard of care.

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Daniel Pleasant Holoman LLP

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