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At discharge, medical errors may increase

For patients in North Carolina and throughout the country, the time immediately after discharge from a medical facility may be the most dangerous in terms of potential errors that could result in a further decline or even death. In 2012, the Annals of Internal Medicine journal reported that there was a significant medication mistake for half of all patients dismissed from one of two leading medical facilities. There appears to be a lack of coordination between doctors, pharmacists, home health care nurses and nursing homes, and some experts believe that electronic medical records are in part to blame. These systems are poorly connected to providers that care for patients after a hospital discharge.

One woman died after being treated for congestive heart failure when she was mistakenly given a highly toxic drug twice per day. The drug, which was supposed to be given no more than once or twice weekly to people with cancer, resulted in multiple organ failure. The error originally occurred because a pharmacy tech wrote down the wrong drug name, but there were numerous opportunities to catch it afterward including by the pharmacist and the home health care nurse.

After a lawsuit, the woman's family was paid $125,000 from the pharmacy. The hospital settled for $225,000 but has since made more medication errors.

As this case demonstrates, medication errors can be devastating and even deadly. They can be the result of hospital negligence or may occur at another stage. A person whose health has suffered as a result of a medication error or a family who has lost a loved one due to such a mistake may want to consult an attorney about the advisability of filing a lawsuit against the responsible parties. More than one practitioner or facility may bear responsibility in some cases.

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Daniel Pleasant Holoman LLP

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