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Hospital Medication Errors

Improved Information Systems Could Reduce Errors

A 2002 study about medication errors in hospitals revealed that serious mistakes involving prescription drugs occur in 3% to 7% of hospital inpatients. These findings suggest that more that 90,000 patients are harmed by medication errors in our nation's hospitals each year.

Based on information submitted to a national database for hospital medication errors, it is estimated that 1 in 5 medication mistakes in hospitals are pharmacy-dispensing errors in which the wrong drug or incorrect strength is prescribed.

The most common reason for medication errors in hospitals is lack of knowledge. Relatedly, studies have suggested that mistakes involving prescription drugs or medicine that led to patient harm were preventable, and the number of medication errors could be reduced by improved information systems. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that pharmacists are better able to detect medication errors in the hospital setting that other health care professionals.

The 2002 medical study was intended to evaluate the impact of pharmacy services and pharmacy staffing on medication errors in hospitals. The authors concluded that medication errors which adversely affect patient care outcomes could be reduced by the following steps:

  • increased staffing of clinical pharmacists
  • pharmacist-supervised drug therapy monitoring
  • pharmacist-provided drug information services
  • pharmacist-assisted adverse drug reaction management
  • pharmacist taking drug history of patient during admission
  • pharmacist giving drug counseling at time of hospital discharge

Clinical Pharmacy Services, Hospital Pharmacy Staffing, and Medication Errors in the United States Hospitals, Bond, CA, et. al. Pharmacotherapy 22(2): 134-147, 2002.

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