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Medication Errors in America

Medication errors mean the mistakes done in administering or prescribing of dosage. Medication errors in America have led to death of about 15000 people each year. It is a serious problem because medical errors occur frequently they are costly and negatively affect the quality of life of the patient. Two thirds of these deaths comprise of the children or infants. The health care industry is therefore concerned and looks for ways of reducing the dosage errors.  Many rules have therefore been established for reading, writing and administering medicines and the rules are continually updated. In evaluating the errors Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) have been used to identify the errors which may be dosage or administration errors.

We have various types of medication errors which include: misinterpretation of the order, wrong concentration of the correct medication, using the wrong drug to prepare the drip and entering the wrong concentration or infusion rate on the pump.

Misinterpretation of the order means that when an order is placed the requirements of the order may be misinterpreted which leads to wrong drugs issued. For example when an order is placed for disease say diabetes and the order is not specific on which type of diabetes it wants to be treated then wrong drugs will be issued. This is because each type of diabetes requires specific dosage.

Wrong concentration of the correct medication; medication may be correct but the concentration may be low or high depending on the situation that the patient is in. when the right concentration is not used the medicine may not cure the disease or it if the concentration is higher than expected the medicine may cause over reaction which may cause more harm to the patient or may become poison to the body of the patient.

When the wrong drug is used to prepare drip this will also lead to error in dosage. The drip is meant to prepare the medicine to be used in the treatment of the patient. In the preparation of the drip if a mistake is done from the initial stage then this automatically will lead to wrong medicine.

There is also wrong concentration or infusion rate of the pump. This is the mix that is done in the preparation of a medicine. The right concentration of the drug should be done so as to ensure that the right medicine has been produced. If the infusion rate of the pump is wrong the results will automatically be wrong. for example in production of say insulin the sugar concentration should be low the programming of the i.v infusion pump should be done correctly since wrong programming leads to error in dosage.

High alert medication is administered intravenously and patients receiving i.v medication are at a particular risk. High alert medication is type of treatment that is so urgent and should be done immediately and cautiously because any slight mistake causes serious problems or may even lead to death. High alert medication involves administering say insulin or heparin intravenously. Heparin for example is used to decrease clotting ability of the blood to people who have medical conditions or those undergoing medical procedures that increase the chance of blood clotting. Heparin which comes as a solution is injected intravenously under the skin and as a dilute solution injected into intravenous catheters. Heparin should not be injected into the muscle. It is sometimes injected one to six times a day and sometimes it is given as a slow, continuous injection into the vein.

Heparin solution comes in different strengths and using different strength causes serious problems. The patient should be cautious when using heparin. The patient should inform the doctor if he/she is allergic to heparin, low level of platelets and if one has heavy bleeding then he should not use heparin. Smoking also reduces the effectiveness of heparin.

On the other hand insulin injection is used to control blood sugar in people who have type 1 diabetes (this is a condition where the body does not make insulin hence cannot control amount of sugar in the blood) or in people who have type 2 diabetes (condition where blood sugar is too high because the body does not produce or use insulin normally) that cannot be controlled with oral medications alone. It comes as a solution and is injected under the skin.

The doctor should tell the patient which type of insulin to use how much insulin to use, and how often to inject insulin. The patient should therefore follow these instructions carefully. The patient should know if he/she is allergic to any type of insulin. The doctor should also know if one is pregnant or breastfeeding or if one is planning to be pregnant so as to get the right prescription. If one is also having surgery including dental surgery then one should inform the doctor.

Errors in high alert medication are more serious than other errors, this is because the medications are often done by the patients themselves for example heparin and insulin and therefore any changes which occurs without the doctors prescription causes serious problems. As explained above in the case of insulin and heparin the patient should be cautious to look into allergy, pregnancy, one should not be smoking since it reduces efficiency of the drugs. A patient for example may have order mistake by using insulin meant for type 1 diabetes to treat type 2 diabetes. This mistake occurs when the patient does not clearly understand and distinguish symptoms and signs of diabetes 1 and diabetes 2. It is therefore necessary to seek doctor’s advice in case of any changes.

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