The problem of medication errors is prevalent in nursing homes across the nation and a subject of concern in the medical field. Without question, many common characteristics of nursing homes contribute to medication errors. For instance, nursing home residents frequently have cognitive deficits and complex health conditions for which medication is prescribed. As a result, residents often take several medications for multiple co-morbidities. These medications must be continuously tracked, monitored and evaluated. If a nursing home neglects to do so, or if important information concerning a resident’s medication is neglected during a nursing shift change, or when a resident is transferred from the hospital to a nursing home, it can result in serious injury or death.
In the nursing home setting, Medicare regulations allow for an acceptable percentage and severity of errors in the daily dispensing of medications to residents. If an excessive number of medication errors are reported or found, the facility will be cited and required to develop and complete a plan of correction. However, the very fact that Medicare allows for an acceptable level of errors suggests that there is a high rate of drug errors in nursing homes putting long-term care residents at risk for possibly life-threatening situations.
The most common factors that lead to nursing home medication errors are inadequate monitoring of residents, harmful drug interactions, and physicians choosing the wrong medication. The wrong medication may be prescribed because the physician has inadequate information about the drug or lacks knowledge of the patient and his/her medical history and conditions. In other instances, transcription errors can occur when confusing abbreviations are used in a patient’s medical chart causing one drug to be mixed up with another.
Further, nursing home medication errors may result when healthcare providers fail to follow basic guidelines and procedures on prescription, preparation, and administration. Generally speaking, doctors are expected to have adequate knowledge of the drug being prescribed and the patient’s medical condition and history. The pharmacist must fill and dispense the correct drug and the correct drug dosage. Nurses are responsible for monitoring patients and should have sufficient knowledge of the medication to identify medication errors. Medication errors or adverse effects often occur when one or more of these links break down. Frequently adverse events result when patients are given the wrong drug, wrong drug dosage or when physicians fail to consider the interaction between two or more drugs.
Lawsuits against nursing homes for medication errors are often successful since it is easier to establish the standard of care for prescribing, dispensing and administering medication than other negligent acts committed by nursing homes. Call nursing home attorney Brent Wieand for a free consultation if you believe that a loved one has been injured or killed due to a medication error.