According to its fourth annual report on medication errors, released today by U.S. Pharmacopeia, the number of medication errors in U.S. hospitals increased by 82% last year. A news release
is available, including an e-mail address to obtain a copy of the report. Here's an excerpt of findings from the press release
"The report data revealed that more than one-third of the medication errors reaching the patient involved a patient aged 65 or older," said Diane Cousins, R.Ph., vice president of the Center for the Advancement of Patient Safety (CAPS) at USP. "As the senior population continues to increase, USP is calling for hospitals to focus on reducing medication errors among seniors. Seniors and their families need to become more involved in their care."
Specifically with reference to the senior population, the 2002 MEDMARX data report revealed a number of significant findings, including:
"We are seeing a strong upsurge in the number of medication errors in the database," Cousins said. "This increase is a positive step toward identifying and eliminating medication errors and ensuring the safety and well-being of all hospital patients. By identifying medication error trends and problem areas, hospitals will be able to prevent future errors and reduce patient harm and injuries."
- A majority (55 percent) of fatal hospital medication errors reported involved seniors.
- When medication errors caused harm to seniors 9.6 percent were prescribing errors.
When harm occurred, wrong route (7 percent), such as a tube feeding given intravenously, and wrong administration technique (6.5 percent), such as not diluting concentrated medications, were the second and third most common errors among those aged 65 and over.
- Omission errors (43 percent), improper dose/quantity errors (18 percent), and unauthorized drug errors (11 percent) were the most common types of medication errors among seniors.
Of the 192,477 medication errors documented by MEDMARX, the vast majority were corrected before causing harm to the patient. However, 3,213 errors, or 1.7 percent of the total, resulted in patient injury. Of this number, 514 errors required initial or prolonged hospitalization, 47 required interventions to sustain life, and 20 resulted in a patient's death. Compared with 2001 data, a smaller percentage of reported errors resulted in harm to the patient (1.7 percent in 2002 versus 2.4 percent in 2001).
The 2002 MEDMARX data report also found that incorrect administration technique continues to be responsible for the largest number of harmful medication errors (6.2 percent). This occurs when medications are either incorrectly prepared or administered, or both. Examples include not diluting concentrated medications, crushing sustained-released medications, wrong eye application of eye drops, and using incorrect IV tubes for medicine administration.
Health care facilities attributed medication errors to many reasons and often cited workplace distractions (43 percent), staffing issues such as shift changes and floating staff (36 percent), and workload increases (22 percent), as contributing factors. Although workplace distraction remains the leading factor contributing to medication errors, the data revealed a drop from 47 percent in 2001.
A limited number of high-alert medications continue to cause the most severe injury to patients when an error is committed. For example, three of the top medications frequently involved in harmful errors were insulin, heparin, and morphine. . . .