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New review says medication injuries and deaths could be reduced

Around 7,000 people die each year due to medication errors, according to the authors of a recent review of 63 studies. Many of these deaths are due to a breakdown in communication or misunderstandings between physicians, pharmacists and parents. The review found that many children are not getting their prescribed medications or are taking the wrong amount because of errors that could be reduced with greater cooperation between families and medical professionals. People in Phoenix, Arizona, could be at risk for medication injuries by taking the wrong medication or an incorrect dosage.

One of the ways to decrease harm to patients is for doctors to stop writing prescriptions by hand. The review authors stated that kids get prescribed an incorrect amount of medication or are given the wrong kind of medication between five and 27 percent of the time. Yet, when doctors used preprinted prescription order sheets instead of writing, medication orders errors decreased by as much as 82 percent.

Another method for reducing errors is to input prescription orders into computers loaded with software that offers reminders clinical guidelines and criteria for diagnoses, according to the review team. If parents, nurses and doctors work together, more errors could be avoided. Demonstrating how to administer the medication at the hospital so that parents are clear could help as could switching liquid medication dosages to milliliters instead of teaspoons or tablespoons. One in six parents admitted to using a kitchen spoon or other non-standard instrument to give their kids medication, but since these spoons vary in size, the dosages are often wrong.

Parents and guardians of kids who have become ill or injured as a result of an incorrect prescription may have cause to receive compensation from a hospital or medical professional. An attorney could advise on whether families have a case and what legal remedies are available to them.

Source: Business Insider, "Doctors find strategies to reduce medication errors among kids", Kathryn Doyle, July 14, 2014

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