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How do medication errors happen?

The Mayo Clinic discusses common medication errors that occur in homes and hospital settings across the country, and explains that they are incredibly prevalent. No matter if the medication in question is a prescription drug or available over-the-counter, there is always the potential for it to be improperly dispensed or administered. Beyond that, issues relating to physicians and/or pharmacists issuing wrong prescriptions are not uncommon. The truth of the matter is that a serious and potentially life-threatening medication error can occur at any stage of a drug being prescribed, dispensed or administered.

Poor communication is a primary factor in medication error incidents, and can occur between everyone from physicians and nurses to pharmacists and patients. For instance, a severe medication interaction can occur in instances where a doctor prescribes a medication without being aware of all the nonprescription drugs the patient is taking. Nurses and other medical professionals have also been known to administer wrong medications because they fail to recognize and/or question drug names and abbreviations.

Communication also plays an important role in comparing and reconciling medication orders and lists. Any time a medication order is issued or updated, it is up to physicians, pharmacists and other medical professionals to ensure that there are now dangerous mistakes. Duplications and/or omissions in dosages can have catastrophic consequences for patients.

Another major issue that can result from poor communication is the improper administration of drugs. Even though it is the responsibility of doctors and pharmacists to explain the proper dosage and administration of medications to patients, people are also encouraged to ask questions about when and how to take their medicines. For instance, not knowing that a particular pill should not be split or chewed can affect how the drug is absorbed and metabolized.

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