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New system helps prevent medication errors, but not enough

We established this blog to discuss injury-related issues that may be of interest to people in Orange County, and a large part of our law practice is devoted to helping clients who have been injured by misdiagnosis, failure to diagnose, defective medical devices and medication errors. These mistakes can cause severe injury and death, and victims of medical malpractice should be aware of their legal options in the wake of a medical error.

A recent article in Forbes points out the shocking prevalence of medication errors in the United States' medical industry. While technological steps are being taken to stop these preventable mistakes, not enough is being done.

According to a study cited in Forbes, medication errors contribute to an estimated 7,000 deaths each year, with about a million medication errors occurring annually.

Some hospitals are trying to improve patient safety with relatively new technology called CPOE, which is short for "computerized physician order entry."

The system requires medical professionals to enter prescription information into a computer, which then checks the prescription to make sure it won't have an allergic or otherwise adverse effect on the specific patient the drug is meant for. That means individual patient information must be properly updated and correct.

The system is also supposed to correct other errors such as misplaced decimal points and a doctors' entering the wrong drug for the required treatment.

After the system approves the entry, the prescription is sent to the pharmacy. Another positive aspect of this method is that pharmacists won't have to try interpreting physicians' handwriting.

Still, not enough hospitals have CPOEs, and when they do, they often aren't monitored and tested properly. The very real danger exists that something so simple as a misplaced decimal point will result in a catastrophic overdose or under-dose.

In any case, injured patients or their families should be aware of their right to pursue justice after a medical error of any kind.

For more information on medical malpractice and other injury-related issues, please check back here each week. We'll be providing frequent updates.

Source: Forbes, "The Shocking Truth About Medication Errors," Leah Binder, Sept. 3, 2013