Patients Left in the Dark About Medication Errors

If you suffer some seemingly unexplained events while hospitalized, it may be that the hospital made a medication error. Just don’t expect them to tell you about it.

According to a surprising report published in Critical Care Medicine, patients and their families are rarely told when hospitals make mistakes with their medication. In fact, patients are informed about a medication error by a hospital only about two percent of the time despite hospital literature promoting full disclosure. Moreover, about half the time after an error occurred, the hospital staff took no further action. And even more shocking, about one-third of the time, the hospital staff who made the error weren’t immediately told about their error.

The study found that most of the medication mistakes (about 98 percent) didn’t harm patients. However, the vast majority of the errors that did cause harm occurred in intensive care units (ICUs). Roughly four percent of the errors in the ICU harmed a patient, compared to two percent of errors in other parts of the hospital. ICU patients typically are in fragile condition, so a medication error is more likely to have an adverse effect on them. Furthermore, patients and their families were less likely to be told about errors that occurred in ICUs.

The most common type of error was failing to give medication. Many other errors involved IV lines and mistakes in calculating medication doses. Giving the wrong medication is also another common mistake.

According to the study, when hospitals instituted a blame-free reporting system, the number of reported mistakes increased. This indicates that hospital staff is more likely to come forward and admit their mistakes if they know they won’t suffer adverse job consequences for it.

Be extra vigilant if you or someone you love is hospitalized. If you believe you’ve been a victim of medication malfeasance, consult with a knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer today.

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