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DR. STUMPF is Vice Chair, Director of Education, and Director of Reproductive Endocrinology Division, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, Newark, N.J.
What can you do right now in your daily practice to prevent the three most common-and potentially dangerous-types of medical errors?
For example, most of us now know that medication errors are the most common and most dangerous of the errors that occur in daily practice. Even so, many institutions and physician practices still haven't instituted safety practices like electronic prescribing.
[Medication errors are of four types: prescribing (physician ordering) errors, transcription and verification errors, pharmacy dispensing and delivery errors, and administration (nurse-to-patient) errors.] When medication errors lead to patient injuries, they're often called adverse drug events (ADEs)-which affect an estimated 6% of hospitalized patients. Moreover, ADEs are to blame for about 20% of all disabling patient injuries due to medical errors. Errors in order writing most often cause the almost 60% of ADEs considered preventable.1
[All prescriptions should include detailed instructions for administering the drug to help prevent errors when patients receive them.] Pharmacy dispensing errors reportedly occur in almost 2% of prescriptions filled (that's more than 50 million errors during the filling of three billion prescriptions annually in the US), 6.5% of which were judged clinically important.6 Give patients as much information as possible at the time you prescribe a drug; that may help them spot a mistake when it's dispensed or administered.