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Pharmacists in the ER can dramatically reduce medication errors

A recent study says that pharmacists in the ER can reduce medication errors by up to 80 percent.

When a patient is admitted to the emergency department, it is common for either a nurse or a doctor to ask them about their medication history. However, doctors and nurses in the ER are juggling a wide range of issues and for people with complex prescription histories, asking doctors and nurses to ask about those histories could cause problems. As the Pharmacy Times reports, a recent study suggests that medication errors in the emergency department can be reduced dramatically by having pharmacists or pharmacy technicians take patients' medication histories in the ER rather than doctors or nurses.

Placing pharmacists in the ER

The study was published in the BMJ Quality and Safety journal and involved researchers from throughout North America. The researchers followed 306 patients who were taking at least 10 prescription drugs and suffered from either heart failure or another serious condition. In looking through these patients' medical records, they found that they had suffered, on average, from seven medication errors each in the past. While most medication errors are harmless, such as failing to take a multivitamin, others can be dangerous, especially for those suffering from serious medical conditions.

As Healthcare Informatics reports, the researchers placed pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in the emergency department and had them take patients' medical histories soon after they were admitted rather than relying on doctors or nurses to do so. This change led to a dramatic 80 percent drop in drug order errors in the emergency department.

Combating medication errors

There are a number of reasons why pharmacists in the ER can lead to a dramatic decline in medication errors. People with complex medication profiles tend to see many different types of physicians, which can mean that one physician may overlook an important piece of information in the patient's prescription records or else fail to update those records with new information. Pharmacists are better equipped to see if something is missing from those records or if mixing certain drugs could cause an adverse reaction.

Also, time of patient admission matters. Most ER patients are admitted in the late afternoon or early evening and often come in at first with family members. The earlier a pharmacist can see those patients, the more likely they are to also be able to talk to accompanying family members who may be able to offer useful information about the patients' medication history. Waiting later in the evening for a nurse or doctor to take that information could lead to problems since the accompanying family member may have left by then.

Medical malpractice law

Medication errors are one of the most common mistakes made in healthcare settings. Anybody who has been injured or fallen ill because of a potential medication error or some other type of alleged medical mistake should get in touch with a medical malpractice attorney. An experienced attorney can help clients understand their legal options and, in some cases, may be able to help them pursue compensation for their injuries.

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