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Medication errors: the importance of accurate dispensing

December 15th, 2021
Medication errors: the importance of safe dispensing

In the United States, medication errors constitute a severe public health issue, one of the leading causes of hospital admissions according to the Joint Commission. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) reports that two million people suffer medication errors in hospitals each year and, as many as 98,000 die annually from these preventable mistakes.

Although there are many types of medication errors – some of which may be at least partially due to human error – a common source is when medications are dispensed inaccurately.

Medication errors are a major cause of preventable harm and injuries.  The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) states that one in three hospital admissions are due to medication errors that occur during prescribing and administering.

What causes medication errors in hospitals?

Patients do not expect to come across mistakes in hospitals, such as medication errors. Patients going into hospitals expect to be treated with care and respect as well as receive the utmost attention from both medical practitioners and patients that are enlisted in their care.

However, due to instances where hospitals have failed to identify medication errors, a great number of patients have suffered needlessly because of this.

The question that is left for many is what causes medication errors in hospitals?

  • Lack of time to do things right
  • Drugs to treat one thing can cause another
  • Faulty equipment and drug product packaging problems
  • Lack of education, training and supervision
  • Ignoring safety policies and procedures
  • Failing to monitor for mistakes 
  • An admin assistant makes typographical errors when entering orders into the computer
  • A pharmacist fails to ask enough questions when a doctor prescribes something out of the ordinary

One of the most common errors in prescribing and administering medication is the confusion of two similar-sounding drugs. The error is commonly known as a "sound-alike" or "sound- " mistake. These errors are mostly due to incomplete knowledge or poor memory.

  • The major risk factors for sound-alike errors include:  Poor handwriting, illegible handwriting, poor workplace organization, inappropriate workplace storage, failure to communicate with other health professionals, and failure to communicate with families.
  • Sound-alike errors can be prevented by: Using a systematic approach to medication ordering and writing; using a systematic approach to dispensing medications; using "safety nets" such as computerized provider order entry (CPOE) systems, barcode scanning systems, and pill identifiers; having an effective drug information service; and providing effective education for health care workers.
The importance of safe medical dispensing

Many people do not understand the importance of accurate dispensing procedures and only think about how to save money for their medical office. However, it is important to note that bad dispensing habits can lead to some serious health concerns.

Most patients do not understand how to use the medication properly and this can cause side effects that are much worse than the original symptoms that they were trying to treat.

Here are some tips and tricks on how you can accurately dispense your medications:

1) Always double check that you are dispensing the correct medication, even if you have done it numerous times before. Mixing up medication or giving someone something other than what they requested can have devastating effects.

2) Write down all medications that you give out in a patient's chart, so if they have any adverse reactions, there will be documentation of what was dispensed and why.

3) Make sure that any medications that need to be refrigerated are put back in the refrigerator after each use so they will stay fresh and effective throughout the entire prescription period.

4) If a patient has an allergy or sensitivity to a certain medication or ingredient, make sure you double-check for this when writing up their prescription. Medicine allergies are very serious and can be life-threatening

Why medical dispensing is important:

  • Cleanliness of the injection site is important for preventing infections
  • Using a new, sterile needle to administer each drug is equally important
  • You'll know your clients are healthy when they ask for it
  • Accurate medical dispensing levels the playing field for those seeking help
  • Medical dispensing guidelines promote safer patient care
  • Outdated or unhygienic equipment can put patients at risk of infection
  • You could lose confidence in your medical provider if dispensing is done badly
  • It's dangerous for the dispenser if there is a bad training program in place

Medical dispensing is a very important part of our healthcare system. Accurate medical dispensing plays an important role for patients and the public. It is a vital component of quality service.

In Conclusion

Our portable system reviews patient medication history and automates compliance checklists to reduce human error in dispensing and administration of medicine. Applying the ubiquitous mobile device in healthcare creates a platform that greatly improves medication security while reducing costs.

The company's proprietary software is consistently proven to work by physicians who use it and has been adopted in over 150 office-based physician practices, clinics and hospitals in the US. While TouchPoint Medical's MediSafe® System is intended for use with select medications including psychotropics, antibiotics, antihypertensives and anti-epileptics, the ConfirmaSM technology platform is designed to support any medicines or medical devices that can be entered into an electronic prescribing system or hospital information system.