Beyond the Rights: 3 Ways To Reduce Medication Errors

Beyond the Rights: 3 Ways To Reduce Medication Errors

“The right patient, the right drug, the right dose, the right route.” This is the goal of medication administration. If all these criteria are met, then patients should be able to receive medications correctly. However, a goal is only as good as the plan utilized to get there. Given that hundreds of thousands of deaths occur annually due to medication errors, it is evident that more plans are needed. Here are three ways to reduce medication errors.

Clear Labeling

Although this seems like a small thing, it is amazing how often medication errors occur because nurses, doctors, and other healthcare providers simply misread the labels. This may occur because of illegible handwriting or because labels are written in cursive which isn’t used as frequently these days; however, labels can still be misread even when they are typed. Many medication names already look similar to each other. Try to write medications in large, printed letters, avoiding abbreviations, and review with staff how to label IV tubing correctly.

Build in “Quality Control” Checks

There should be checks built in at every stage of the medication distribution. For example, when a medication is written down or given from one caregiver to another—such as when a physician hands a prescription to a nurse, or the caregiver of one shift delivers a prescription to the next shift—the prescription should be read back to ensure that both parties know for sure what the label says. Labels should also be double-checked by every healthcare worker who handles them, even if they are passed to multiple people before being given to the patient.

Document Medication Administration

Medication errors may occur because of unclear communication between the various caregivers or hospital staff in charge of a single patient, even with quality control checks. That is why writing down in a patient log which medications were given when is a crucial way to reduce medication errors. This way if, for instance, a caregiver enters the room without being able to check in with those who were on the shift previously, there does not have to be any question as to what the patient was given and when.

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