Safety and health care quality directly affect treatment success and patient satisfaction. This presentation discusses the medication errors issue as one of the health care and patients’ safety problem. Initially representing an overview of this issue, other questions are considered, such as necessity in nurses’ high-level critical judgment, current health initiatives to prevent medication errors and emerging issues related to the topic. Additionally, this presentation discusses how medication errors interfere with the implementation of overall health care quality improvement. The last question is how to enhance workplace communication to avert medication errors.
Overview of the Medication Errors
The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention published such definition of the medication error: “A medication error is any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer” (NCCMERP, n.d.). Medication errors can lead to minor and severe harm for the patient. Due to such errors up to 9 thousand people die in the U.S. each year (Tariq et al., 2021). According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, medication errors happen “throughout the medication-use system” (FDA, 2019).
Necessity of High-Level Clinical Judgment to Prevent Medication Errors
Health care professionals should be experienced, possess knowledge and competence to operate with medications. It is essential since lack of clinical judgment leads to medication errors. For example, mistakes at the prescribing/ordering stage result in almost 50% of medication errors (Tariq et al., 2021). Medication errors may lead to severe harm, injury or death, but still, they are preventable. Therefore maintaining high-level clinical judgment is vital.
Health Care Professionals
Applying high-level clinical judgment in order to reduce the number of medication errors involves several necessary actions. Health care professionals should obtain reliable patient information such as allergy and medical histories. To provide patients with medications, nurses should possess exceptional drug knowledge. Nursing staff should be attentive and avoid distractions and distortions while prescribing or administering drugs. The choice of drugs should be made considering the patient’s health, age and weight, and after reviewing other medication intakes to foresee possible drug interactions. Every health care professional should double-check the correctness of medication, dosage, frequency and estimated duration before giving prescriptions and recommendations to the patient.
Prevent Medication Errors
Prevention of medication errors requires using a complex approach since such errors may occur at any stage of medication use. The first strategy is to enhance health professionals’ educational backgrounds by developing new teaching strategies for nursing students. Improvement of organizational issues is another strategy that involves training, meetings, and the creation of step-by-step instructions and checklists. To reduce human error, computerization of the medication operations process is an option. To minimize confusion resulting in medication errors, FDA (2019) is reviewing drugs’ names, container labels and instructions.
There are several emerging issues due to strategies to reduce medication errors. Improvement of teaching and organizational strategies cannot provide safe medication use since errors can occur for unrelated reasons. Patients may provide false health information or improperly use medications (wrong drug, dose, time, frequency). Another reason is taking expired medications. Pharmacist mistakes may also result in medication errors. The issue related to computerization is the potential emergence of new errors due to software glitches. Despite FDA verification, some factors confuse health care professionals, patients and pharmacists. Medication errors are often due to similar drug names, analogous packaging and identical containers of different dosages.
Influence on the Health Care Quality
Medication errors interfere with the implementation of health care quality improvement. Such errors result in a lot of harm to patients, therefore representing a lack of health care quality. In addition to health harm, medication errors lead to increased monetary losses. The total care cost for patients suffering from medication errors is over $40 billion per year (Tariq et al., 2021). Furthermore, medication errors represent health care staff as negligent, carelessness, forgetful and inexperienced.
Patients’ Safety and Satisfaction
Medication errors affect patients’ safety and satisfaction with treatment. It happens because such mistakes compromise patients’ health and may be life-threatening. Patients can suffer minor or severe harm, injury or death due to medication errors. Receiving such mistreatment leads to dissatisfaction with the quality of health care. Furthermore, medication-related errors result in emerging mistrust in health workers and fear of drugs. Which in turn, leads to people beginning to look for alternative treatment methods that can lead to complications of diseases or the emergence of new ones.
Enhancement of Workplace Communication
Patients and their health care are central to the work of nurses. Building fruitful communication with patients is essential for health workers. To prevent medication errors, health care professionals should avoid misunderstandings, confusion and inaccuracies. To provide better health care, nurses should consider patients’ health needs, pay attention to weight and age. In addition, health professionals should be aware of patients’ health issues and environmental factors that may interact with new medication. Nurses should double-check calculations and measurements before prescribing or administering the medication to provide the most beneficial health outcomes. Building a mutual understanding with the patients is essential to ensure that they understand all the instructions correctly.
Medication errors are events related to medication use resulting in patient harm up to death. Nurses’ competence, knowledge and experience are essential in preventing and reducing medication errors. Several strategies were developed to prevent medication errors. Examples are the educational strategy including new teaching methods, the organizational strategy involving checklists, and the technological strategy presupposing greater computer use. Drug-related errors negatively affect overall health care quality and patients’ safety and satisfaction. Patients suffer harm, lack confidence in health professionals and medication. However, nurses may decrease the number of medication errors by establishing a trusting relationship with patients.
Tariq, R. A., Vashisht, R., Sinha, A., & Scherbak, Y. (2020). Medication dispensing errors and prevention. StatPearls Publishing. Web.
National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention (n.d.). About Medication Errors. Web.
Food and Drug Administration (2019). Working to reduce medication errors. Web.