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Hospitals slow to use medication software

Misplacing a decimal point may seem like a small mathematical errors, but for patients in Kentucky and elsewhere in the United States, putting a decimal in the wrong spot on a prescription or medication order can make the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, such medication errors go undetected more than the average person thinks, leading to overmedication that can result in serious injury, the worsening of a medical condition or even death.

Technology called computerized physician order entry can help reduce medication errors by up to 85 percent. Although this software is readily available, hospital have been slow to adopt it. When a doctor or authorized prescriber enters medication orders, the software checks lab values, clinical condition, safety and appropriateness of an order before sending it to the pharmacy. The software also eliminates the need for pharmacists to decipher handwriting and is designed to catch misplaced decimal points and other errors.

Only about one-third of hospitals use CPOE, and of that number about half are not using the system properly and still missing some medication errors. Thus, even with an available safeguard to reduce potentially harmful medication and pharmacists errors, a high rate of medication errors still exists.

When patients or their families in Kentucky believe that they may have been victims of medication errors, they must carefully examine the procedures used by doctors and hospital in overall care. A medical malpractice attorney may be able to help patients discern if negligence exists and file lawsuits to help mitigate the effects of pain and suffering and additional medical procedures associated with the mistake.

Source: Forbes, "The Shocking Truth About Medication Errors", Leah Binder, September 03, 2013

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