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Pharmacists at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas Are Looking to Cut Medication Errors

David W. Hodges
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Partner at Kennedy Hodges LLP practicing pharmacy error, medical malpractice and personal injury law

Did you know that there are over 7,000 people who die every year across this nation due to medication errors and dangerous drug interactions? Because of the high rate of deaths that medication errors are associated with, doctors, pharmacists, and hospitals are constantly looking for ways to help reduce needless medication mistakes that cause harm to patients.

One way that the Children’s Medical Center in Dallas is planning to cut down on medication mistakes is through the addition of pharmacists in the emergency room, according to an article by NPR. By having a pharmacist who specializes in emergency medicine on hand in the ER, the trained pharmacist will be able to review each patient’s medication to ensure it is the correct drug and dosage—helping to prevent medication-related injuries and deaths. Not only is this Dallas hospital employing emergency room pharmacists, but they have 10 full-time ER pharmacists who are on call 24 hours a day. By having more ER pharmacists than anywhere else in this nation, it is believed that the pharmacists will catch more errors made by physicians.

According to a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, 25 percent of children’s prescriptions had errors. The reality is that some doctors have poor prescription handwriting or confuse similar drug names, which could lead to hospital patients getting the wrong medication. It is also a known fact that some nurses, when administering medication, make mistakes between metric and other dosing units.

“The pharmacists provide a vital safety net,” according to Dr. Rustin Morse, chief quality officer and pediatric ER physician. The goal is that the pharmacists catch any errors before dispensing or administering medication to patients. This is especially critical when treating children, as kids are more likely to suffer fatal side effects from receiving the wrong medication or wrong dosage of drugs.

There are many benefits to having pharmacists on duty in the ER, including:

  • Less stress experienced by doctors and nurses
  • Less time for patients to wait for medication
  • Less chance of error
  • Less cause of upset to patients
  • Less harm to patients and more lives being saved

Reducing medication errors is especially critical when dealing with children. Kids are more likely to suffer fatal side effects from receiving the wrong medication or wrong dosage of drugs. Because children are smaller and have different metabolic rates, pharmacists have to pay even closer attention to medications intended for children. This is why pharmacists at this Dallas hospital aren’t only reviewing medications prescribed by doctors, but they are looking at children’s allergies, weight, and other drugs they are taking to reduce as many medication errors as possible.

While it is the hope that more hospitals in Texas and across the nation will put pharmacists in their emergency rooms to help cut medication errors, it is possible that medicine mistakes will continue to occur. Unfortunately, any human—including pharmacists—can make medication mistakes. If your child was a victim of a medication error, you should order a free copy of our report, How to Make Pharmacies Pay for Injuries Caused by Medication Errors.