While the number of reported medication errors is up dramatically, hospital initiatives to reduce medication injuries seem to be paying off, according to a survey released Nov. 18 by United States Pharmacopeia of Rockville, Md.
The survey finds that hospital reporting of medication errors rose from 105,000 errors in 2001 to 192,577 in 2002. That shows "a positive step toward identifying and eliminating medication errors and ensuring the safety and well-being of all hospital patients," says Diane Cousins, vice president of the Center for the Advancement of Patient Safety at USP.
The report also shows that the percentage of errors causing patient injury dropped from 2.4% in 2001 to 1.7% of the 2003.
"By identifying medication error trends and problem areas, hospitals will be able to prevent future errors and reduce patient harm and injuries," Cousins adds.
Breaking down the errors that caused injuries in 2003, the report finds 514 errors required initial or prolonged hospitalization, 47 required interventions to sustain life, and 20 resulted in patient death.
The report says seniors were involved in more than one-third of errors affecting patients and in 55% of deaths from errors.
It says the most common types of errors reported among seniors were omission errors (43%), improper dose/quantity errors (18%), unauthorized drug errors (11%) and prescribing errors (9.6%).
Asked to identify causes of the errors, hospitals most often cited workplace distractions (43%), staffing issues such as shift changes and floating staff (36%) and workload increases (22%).