Hospital Medication Errors in Minnesota Increased Despite Computerized Entry

Hospitals around Minneapolis, St. Paul, and all through the state have made the switch from handwritten prescriptions to computerized entry in an effort to eliminate errors. Regardless of this, medication errors are still being made and they have resulted in injuries and deaths.

While these errors don’t happen very frequently, they are serious when they do. They are so serious that hospitals made the switch from handwritten prescriptions that could more clearly pass through the line of communication.

In a new report on hospital medication errors, Minnesota hospitals recorded 10 serious injuries and four deaths because of medication errors. This was in a 12-month period that ended October 6, 2015. This is the highest total in the more than a decade since “adverse event” reporting began in the state.

Minnesota is only one of a handful of states that disclose hospital errors to the public. This is done in a quest to prevent such mistakes.

One doctor whose hospital reported five errors said that a single error is too many.

Fatal or disabling medication errors have confused hospitals around the state because there are many chances for these errors to occur between the time the prescription is created to the time it is filled.

Of the 28 medical errors that the Minnesota Department of Health has tracked, some are easier to understand. For instance, there are fewer incidents of objects being left inside of people during their surgeries due to better tracking. Device fragments and lab sponges have been the most common items left behind. In 2015, only 22 of those cases were recorded compared to nearly 40 just four years before.

In total, the report revealed a total of 316 incidents statewide, which was up from the 308 recorded the previous year.

Fatal patient falls decreased from 79 in 2014 to 67, but losing biological specimens that could be replaced increased from 20 in 2014 to 27.

Of the medication errors, the most common and most dangerous was when a medication had to be given by an injection. Those times where a drug had to be given via intravenous pump revealed fewer errors. Other errors included medication being stopped before surgery and not restarted and a prescription added to a patient’s take-home drug list after they were given the list.

There are many points of transition when prescribing medications. The doctor orders it and could order the wrong one. The nurse checks the medication, which still has room for error. The pharmacist then evaluates the medication, but it is possible for the wrong medication to be placed in the bottle.

The most common drugs involved are cardiac drugs and blood thinners. The management of these drugs can be challenging.

To combat this, some hospitals now have pharmacists in the emergency rooms to check patient prescription histories. Doing so can preserve patient health and prevent incidents that result in patients having to file medical malpractice lawsuits against those charged with their care.