How Can Medical Errors Be Prevented? 8 Ways to Prevent Them
Medical errors are one of the top leading causes of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer. According to statistics, nearly 250,000 people die from medical errors. These findings are based on years of conducting studies and statistical analysis and highlight a very important public concern. There are two main types of medical errors, including errors of omission, which occur because nurses or doctors fail to follow the required protocols and actions.
This includes not tying the straps to a patient in a wheelchair. The second type of medical error comes under the category of errors of the commission. Errors of commission occur when wrong steps and actions are taken. These include administering the wrong injection or medicine out of ignorance or not labeling a laboratory specimen correctly because of which it is ascribed to a different patient.
It is very important that all staff ranging from hospital administration staff to nurses and doctors, should be familiar with techniques and methods to prevent medical errors. Here are the top eight strategies to do just that.
1) Remember the five points of medication administration
Nurses should make sure that policies and all protocols related to medicine administration should be followed properly. The medicine prescribed by the doctor should be administered to the right patient, in the correct dosage amount, at the right time intervals, and via the right route. These are also known as the five principles or rights of medication administration.
2) All medication reconciliation procedures should be followed
When a patient is transferred from one hospital to the other or from one unit to the other within the same hospital, medication reconciliation should be done properly. The patient's medicine should be reviewed and verified, which are listed on the transfer document. The medicine's time, dosage, route, and name should all be checked and verified. Nurses should compare the transfer documents to the medication administration record (MRA).
It's not easy to verify all aspects of the medication record; however, it must be done and holds immense importance. Every source of information should be utilized, including the patient and their family, the transferring unit, and the physician, in order to prevent all sorts of medical errors associated with improper reconciliation. Medication reconciliation forms can be attained from different vendors.
3) Procedures must be checked repeatedly
Nurses on the same shift or those coming from a different shift should review all the details and orders of the patient to ensure that all the patient's orders are written down correctly according to the doctor's order and the treatment administration record, and the medication administration record. Some hospitals have a chart flag procedure.
4) Have the physician read the order
The nurse or physician should read back an order to the physician prescribing the medication to confirm the medication and to make sure the medication is transcribed correctly. This procedure should also be done from one nurse to the other in order to make sure everything is accurate.
5) Use name alerts
Some hospitals have adopted name alerts in order to prevent any Nursing home medical malpractice related to administering the wrong medication to patients with similar-sounding names. Names such as Anna and Emma can be easily confused by the nurses, which is why name alerts are posted in front of the MAR.
6) Every staff should know the hospital's medication administration policies, rules, and regulations
In order to carry out a hospital's medication policy, the staff, including doctors and nurses, should be well aware of what the policy is. This is the responsibility of the institution's education department. They should educate all the nurses and staff about the contents of the hospital's medication administration policies, rules, and guidelines. These guidelines contain important information about the hospital's practices on how to order, prescribe, administer and document medication.
7) A drug guide should be available at all times
It is a good practice to keep a drug guide with you at all times, be it in a print form or on an electronic device. It provides important information on trade and generic names of different drugs, drug interactions, side effects, therapeutic class, nursing considerations, and precautions to take.
By using a drug guide, you can reduce medical errors. Nurses should always remember that a medication error can have fatal and severe consequences, which is why medical safety is important.
8) Keep records and document everything
All medicines should be properly labeled, and everything regarding medication administration should be documented. Failure to keep records can lead to medical errors. If a nurse forgets to document a medication, the patient may be given another dosage at the wrong time by another nurse as there was no record of any previous drug administration.
It is a good practice to read the prescription label and to make sure the medicine is not expired. The right medicine may sometimes have the wrong label, which can lead to medical errors. All medicines that need to be kept in a fridge should be refrigerated in order to keep them effective.
Similarly, medicines that require room temperature should be kept at room temperature. Drugs that expire after a few days once they are opened should be labeled, and the day they are opened should be recorded in order to avoid any medical error associated with administering expired medicines.
In a nutshell
Deaths due to medical errors are on the rise and have now become a public concern. Nurses and doctors are humans, and margins should be kept for human error. However, faulty administration, lack of accountability, and carelessness by the nurses are not acceptable.
The administrative department should come up with methods and techniques to keep everything in check. Every patient's medication and treatment should be documented, and their record should be kept safe. If the patient is transferred to another institution, their record should be handed over to that institution so they can provide treatment accordingly. The above-mentioned eight tips will help set up effective mechanisms to prevent medical errors.