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How doctors can prevent medication errors

Every year, roughly 1.3 million people throughout New York and the rest of the U.S. are hurt by preventable medication errors, according to the FDA. The agency annually receives about 100,000 complaints from people suspecting they were the victims of such errors. Medication errors can arise at the prescribing, dispensing and administration stages of providing health care.

Two studies published in the BMJ medical journal, one analyzing a U.S. pediatric facility in 2006 and the other analyzing family practices in 2008, show that different errors are prominent in certain specialties. In the pediatric facility studied, 41 percent of medication errors were administration errors and 30 percent were from prescriptions. In the family practices, 70 percent were prescribing errors.

However, there are ways that physicians can limit liability. Early on in the treatment process, doctors should check the database tracking all controlled substance prescriptions to see if their patients are obtaining painkillers or other prescription drugs elsewhere. Patients who are evasive when asked about other medications should be dismissed.

Doctors should also never renew a pain medication without an office visit from patients. If patients see no improvement after 90 days on a painkiller, doctors can refer them to a pain specialist. When doctors rely on the outward appearance of patients to determine the strength of a drug, they must record what went into their decisions.

Unfortunately, doctors are often negligent and fail to live up to generally accepted medical practices. When negligence is to blame for a medication error, the victim may want to see a lawyer for a case evaluation. Legal counsel could hire investigators to build up the malpractice claim before going on to settlement negotiations. A successful claim could reimburse a victim for past and future medical expenses, income lost during their recovery, any diminished capacity to earn a living and more.

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