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How the healthcare system may cause harm – Part VI

Medications play a vital role in the care administered by doctors, surgeons and other healthcare workers in Queens. In general, they work by suppressing certain biological responses to stimuli or by attacking bacteria and parasites. In either case, the effect that is produced in the body is often unnatural, which can lead to adverse effects. Information shared by the AARP bulletin shows that every year in the U.S., 700,000 emergency department visits and 120,000 hospitalizations are due to adverse drug events.

Adverse drug events arise from medication errors. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality defines a medication error as any drug-related error that occurs from the time a provider issues a prescription to the moment a patient receives it. This differentiates adverse drug events from drug reactions, with the latter describing detrimental effects arising even after a drug was prescribed and administered correctly.

Ameliorable adverse drug events are those that cause harm yet could have been prevented. Some of the contributing causes to these reactions include:

  •          Poor communication between clinicians
  •          Pharmacy dispensing errors
  •          Overlooking a patient’s allergies or medical history
  •          Lack of knowledge of potential side effects
  •          Healthcare worker fatigue

One of the reasons why drug errors seem to be so prevalent in the healthcare industry may be due to the volume of medications being given. The AHRQ reports that as many as 33 percent of American adults take 5 or more medications. Patients are thus encouraged to be diligent in researching the drugs their doctors are prescribing as well as the reasons they are being given. Doing so may keep potential adverse drug reactions from becoming actual incidents. 

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