Lawyer Resources for Medication Errors

Errors in dispensing medicationMedication errors in inpatient medical facilities such as nursing homes are so commonplace that they are recognized as a common problem in the medical field. The facility’s medication error rate is identified by state inspectors who have to ensure that the error rate of medication errors be kept below an acceptable or standard percentage. While it is positive to note that state inspectors are keeping track, we also have to be realistic and wonder how many errors go unreported.

Dealing with these issues

It is true that minor medicine errors are inevitable. Especially when dealing with elderly patients, staff members may sometimes be confused about what medication is required. However, it is important to refrain from any severe medication errors. When looking at the definition, medication errors are mistakes that happen while administering or preparing medicine. This goes against accepted professional standards, manufacturer’s instructions, or doctor’s orders.

Examples of medication errors

To the untrained eye, it may be difficult to determine whether something qualifies as a medication error. However, once you have a better understanding of what constitutes a medication error, it is easier to be aware of them.

  • Splitting medications that should not be split – These include tablets, capsules, or other types of medication that specifically say, “Do not crush.”
  • Not having enough fluid – There are countless prescription medications that require the elderly patient to consume a certain amount of fluid when ingesting the medication. Improper hydration or not taking in fluid when taking the medication may actually cause harm to the patient.
  • Inadequate antacids or food – Just as some prescriptions require fluid, others require food. There are also medications that require the patient to take an antacid before ingesting the medication. It is important that the nursing staff ensure that patients follow the recommended guidelines regarding antacids, fluids, and food.
  • Not preparing the medication properly – There are a number of nursing home medications that require that it be shaken or mixed before the patient takes it. Without following the proper procedure, the resident is at risk of receiving too much or too little of the medication. For example, it is important to mix insulin suspensions without air bubbles before administering the medication.
  • Swallowing sublingual tablets – Sublingual tablets are administered by placing them underneath the tongue and allowing them to dissolve. However, some elderly patients will swallow these sublingual tablets instead. While once or twice might not be terrible, it is important that the staff recognize this is happening and address this as a reoccurring issue. Perhaps the medication needs to be altered to ensure proper ingestion.

Negligent errors

Because many nursing home facilities do not have enough staff members, it can lead to staff members feeling overworked or not paying attention to the small details. It may also cause them to feel rushed when administering medication. Some of the negligent medication errors include:

  • Outdated, or expired, elder medication order
  • Errors with lab work
  • Incorrect elder patient or documentation
  • Incorrect elder medication administration technique
  • Incorrect rate, duration, or time of medication administration
  • Using expired medication
  • Medication overdose or multiple doses
  • Medication dose omission or under dose

While a single wrong dosage is not likely to cause severe problems in most cases, if it happens consistently, it could lead to serious medical problems, possibly even death. If you suspect medication errors for your loved one, it is important to speak out to ensure that appropriate steps be taken to avoid these mistakes in the future.

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Pharmacists and Their ImportanceIf the pharmacist provides the wrong medication or the right drug at the wrong dose, the consequences are often extremely dangerous and, at times, deadly. When the drugstore is extremely busy the pharmacist may fill 20 prescriptions or more every hour.

Some statistics reveal that approximately 1 to 5 percent of all prescription medications filled by pharmacist the United States involve some type of error. An error might involve an incorrect prescription label that provides the wrong directions. However, it may be the wrong medicine, especially drugs that sound alike or even those that have similar spelling when the pharmacist arranges all medications alphabetically on the drugstore shelf.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains active files on the drugs that are most commonly associated with common pharmaceutical errors. One common mistake involves filling a prescription of methylphenidate used as an proven treatment for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) in children for methadone (a dangerous narcotic prescribed for the treatment of heroin addiction).

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Antibiotics in Nursing HomesAccording to public health watchdog groups, nearly 75 percent of all antibiotics given to ailing residents in nursing facilities are incorrectly prescribed. In many cases, the resident was given the wrong medication or the right medication for the wrong duration or wrong dosage, or never should have received the drug at all. Unfortunately, incorrectly prescribing antibiotics can cause a severe consequence where the drug can easily lose its effectiveness in safeguarding the patient against an infection it could have otherwise treated. In other incidences, the antibiotic can actually cause life-threatening side effects.

In September 2015, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) advised nursing homes to be more proactive at protecting the millions of individuals residing in their facilities nationwide. This warning was given in the hopes of curbing the growing number of “superbug” infection cases across the United States that are beginning to resist the effectiveness of the antibiotics.

Infections that resist antibiotics threaten each one of us, but most specifically elderly individuals residing in nursing facilities. This is because their bodies tend to have a compromised immune system that is unable to fight infections efficiently and effectively. According to the CDC, nearly 20 different types of antibiotic resistant infections cause serious illness to more than 2 million individuals every year and take the lives of nearly 23,000 people annually.

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The-Cost-of-Medication_errors-in_Nursing-HomesIt is startling to think of the number of medication errors in nursing homes that occur repeatedly and go unnoticed. These errors can result in complications such as suppressed appetite, incontinence, dementia, confusion, fractures and falls. Errors in the delivery of medications have become too common and the incidence of repeated errors is most concerning. Patients who are subject to repeated medication errors are much more likely to suffer serious complications than those who are only given the wrong medicine once or twice.

The Cause of Improper Medication In The Nursing Home Setting

There are numerous factors that contribute to the issue of patients receiving the wrong medications or receiving the wrong dosage. Around 63% of errors are the result of the wrong dosage being administered and 83% of repeated errors are the result of nursing homes failing to monitor the patient on the medication in order to detect the side effects of an overdose or drug interaction. 22% of the doctors who prescribe medications fail to consider the possible drug interactions with the medications that patients are currently taking. This task is extremely daunting, however, due to the fact that 68% of nursing home patients are on nine or more medications and 32% take more than twenty medications.

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Pain Control in Elderly with Medicine Can Be FatalPeople nowadays are tentative to send their dear ones to a nursing home for treatment and care. A major reason behind this hesitancy is the prevalence of careless attitudes and poor services that exist in the nursing homes nowadays. One of the commonly experienced issues is not giving the right medications to patients or not monitoring those medications.

This results in the death of the patients in the majority of the cases and tarnishes the reputation of the nursing homes. There have been a huge number of cases where nurses did not keep a watch on the medicines being given to the patients and either gave them an overdose or an under dose of their medications; both these measures prove to be fatal for the patients.

One of the most serious and commonly occurring nursing home abuses is not supervising the medications given to patients; nurses are often reported to either have given the wrong medicine to patients or giving them an incorrect dose of the right medicine. The majority of the patients admitted to the nursing homes are suffering from one of these chronic diseases: cancer, stroke, heart disorders, diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and in all of these conditions, the patients are prescribed drugs to improve their health.

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Death of a Nursing Home Patient due to Poor CommunicationNursing home care is often adversely affected due to poor communication. Open communication channels between hospitals, nursing assistants, nurses in charge, directors and administrators, and other staff is the key to keeping problems from becoming too serious.

Most nurses in nursing homes rely almost entirely upon discharge information provided by the hospital when transitioning patients in nursing home care. Multiple problems and inadequacies arise in the communication of such information to nursing home staff. According to nursing home staff, problems regularly arise with medication in the lack of necessary prescriptions, they are provided with limited or no medical history, and sometimes the wrong information is provided regarding the current health status of patients.

Due to miscommunication between hospitals and nursing homes, nursing home staff reports that they have to consistently make phone calls for clarifications about medical history and medication, deal with increased nursing staff stress and thus lower quality of care, and suffer delays in providing medication. This further leads to the frustration of individual residents and family members, resulting in a negative image of the nursing home and further leading to the re-hospitalization of some patients. Hence, according to nursing home staff, the main barrier to effective transitions to nursing home care was miscommunication.

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Technology to Help in Medication Times in Nursing HomesOne of the major issues impacting patients is medical malpractice involving medical errors. Every year, millions of patients receive the wrong medications. Patients can face increased risks when they receive the wrong medication in a nursing home facility. Often, nursing home patients are elderly and weak. They may have weakened immune systems that are unable to handle the wrong medication. In some cases, providing the wrong medication to patients can also have fatal results.

It is important that society address the multi-faceted types of abuse and neglect that nursing home residents now face. In addition to neglect or malnutrition, nursing home residents may suffer from adverse effects when a doctor prescribes the wrong medication. Researchers have attempted to find solutions to this issue in order to improve upon nursing home reform. As long as researchers remain committed to finding solutions to this form of medical malpractice, the care of nursing home patients may improve in the future.

The Development of MedEye

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Antipsychotic medication in nursing homesThe use of antipsychotics

In medical terminology, we have often heard about antipsychotics. In fact, this category of drugs is perhaps the only one that is self-explanatory. Antipsychotics have been used in hospitals and care center facilities to help patients calm down after an episode of unrest. However, more recently it has been discovered that this category of pills is nothing but poison to the human body. There is a severe tradeoff between the use and non-use of anti-psychotics. On one hand, these medicines are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and on the other, nursing homes and care centers have a very staunch habit of using them to pacify patients suffering from dementia and bipolar disorder. According to research, close to 40% of nursing homes across the nation prescribed anti-psychotics to patients but only 9 to 25% of them saw any benefit at all.

Why should nursing homes stop using antipsychotics?

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Morphine Overdose Kills Nursing-Home PatientOn April 20, a jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff and against a north St. Louis County nursing home after a mentally ill patient died when he received a fatal dose of morphine. The 45-year-old man had never been prescribed the opiate derivative and passed away at a hospital in 2009. Although his death was originally ruled as a heart attack, a toxicology report revealed a fatal level of morphine in his system. However, it is unknown how the patient ended up with the medication overdose.

Family Files Lawsuit Against Nursing Home

The man’s brother and nephew filed the lawsuit against the care facility. Their attorney insisted that the man was unable to leave the facility and so he must have somehow gotten the drug there or from the staff. Witnesses testified that pain medication was sometimes left out at the nurses’ station and that some patients received morphine shots. The jury awarded the plaintiffs $700,000.

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Nursing-Home-Cited-For-Repeated_Medication-ErrorsNo new patients will be admitted and existing residents are being transferred to other facilities after a nursing home in Madison, TN received a scathing inspection. The Imperial Gardens Health and Rehabilitation Center is being decertified and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have stopped funding for new patients. The center will only receive funding for 30 days for existing residents until they can be transferred.

Repeated Medication Errors

Although the inspection brought to light several issues in the facility, including low staffing and neglect, medication errors were one of the most glaring issues that state officials found at the Madison nursing home. Patients were consistently being given the incorrect dosages or even wrong medications. Some examples of the errors that were made:

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Fatal Medication OverdoseA mistake administering medication has cost a patient their life and cost an Illinois nursing home $273,607 following a wrongful death jury trial. The nursing home negligence lawsuit was initiated by the family of a 66-year-old patient who was admitted to Rosewood Care Center for short-term skilled nursing care and control of her chronic pain. As part of her treatment, the staff at the facility were to administer a powerful narcotic known as Fentanyl which was to be administered via a patch placed on the skin. As per the orders from the patient’s physician, the patient was to receive one patch on her back for control of pain at a time.

In an obvious error, one of the nurses attending to the patient placed a second Fentanyl patch on the woman without realizing that there was already one in place. Shortly after the second patch was applied, the woman lost consciousness and was taken to a nearby hospital for what was believed to be a narcotic overdose.

Muddying the waters

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