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Why are IV medication errors so common?

On Behalf of | Nov 26, 2023 | Medical Malpractice |

When a patient needs medication, proper drug administration is crucial to their well-being. When someone starts in antibiotic regimen, for example, they need a specific dose delivered at a specific interval to ensure that their treatment is as effective as possible.

Mistakes when administering drugs can cause overdoses, reduce the efficacy of treatment or lead to unintended drug interactions. Patients often worry that they could make mistakes when taking a prescription on their own. Receiving drug administration support at an inpatient medical facility, like a hospital, can potentially reduce the likelihood of a patient making a mistake.

Patients understandably tend to trust that healthcare professionals will not make the same mistakes that a layperson would. Especially if someone requires intravenous (IV) medication, there is an expectation that treatment will go smoothly in a professional setting. However, IV drug mistakes are shockingly common.

What does medical data show?

Medication mistakes are actually one of the leading causes of medical malpractice lawsuits. These mistakes can occur in many different ways. Physicians can make mistakes when prescribing drugs. Pharmacists can make mistakes when compounding or dispensing drugs. Nurses and other medical workers can also make mistakes when administering medications to patients.

Mix-ups don’t just involve pills. Research shows that approximately 60% of medication errors that put someone’s life at risk in the United States involve IV medications, not pills. IV drug errors come in many forms. Statistically, the most common is a missed dose. Nurses may forget to come in and switch out a patient’s IV bag or start the machine that delivers the drugs.

They can also make mistakes when setting up the equipment for IV drug delivery. Inputting the wrong information about timing, dosage or the drug involved can result in issues. Timing errors can lead to patients receiving inadequate doses of a medication or an overdose. Occasionally, hospital workers might confuse the bags of IV fluid for two patients.

All it takes is a moment of distraction for a nurse or other medical professional to commit a significant error when administering IV drugs to a patient. Recognizing that someone’s poor medical outcome resulted – totally or in part – from a medication mistake can inspire patients to explore their legal options, as those who have suffered harm due to professional negligence are often entitled to significant compensation.