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Using technology to prevent medication errors in Pittsburgh

In a recent post, we wrote about a girl who allegedly died because her prescription painkiller was not properly diluted at the pharmacy. Tragically, errors like this occur more often than we would like to think. Sometimes it may be because of a dosage error made at the pharmacy as in this case, but there are other things that can lead to fatal medication errors as well—including mistakes made by doctors in Pittsburgh.

If patients have a choice in medical providers, they can drastically reduce their chances of becoming a victim of a medication error by choosing a facility that use a CPOE system. CPOE—short for Certified Physician Order Entry—allows doctors or others who are authorized to write prescriptions to enter the orders into a database that houses all pertinent information on patients. Things such as medication allergies, lab values and the patient’s clinical condition are all listed in the database which is supposed to alert physicians to a dangerous combination of prescriptions or potential allergic reactions. Research has shown hospitals that utilize CPOE reduce the occurrence of medication errors by approximately 85 percent. The system only works to prevent problems, however, if hospitals are willing to invest in the technology (many are not) and the hospital staff follows proper protocol when using the system.

While the responsibility of preventing medication errors should not fall on the patient, taking a few minutes to inquire about the use of CPOE before undergoing treatment is a good idea. Still, there will be times when you must use a facility that does not have the technology because of insurance requirements or emergency situations. If you believe that you have lost a loved one because the wrong drug or wrong dosage was administered, you may want to speak with an attorney.

Source: Forbes.com, “The Shocking Truth About Medication Errors,” Leah Binder, Sep. 3, 2013.

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