Medication Errors Run Rampant in Long-Term Care Facilities
Posted on Jan 28, 2012
A recent UK study found that one in every 15 hospital admissions of care home residents are due to medication errors, with the cost of hospital stays reaching nearly $2 billion per year.
The study was the first large-scale program of its kind. Researchers tracked all medications given to 345 elderly residents across thirteen UK care homes for three months. The data showed that 90% of nursing home residents suffered medication errors at least once, and over half of residents were exposed to serious or harmful errors (such as giving a patient the wrong medication).
Nearly 200,000 separate medication administrations were analyzed in an effort to track down the major causes of error. The study revealed that residents received an average of nine different medications, exposing each patient to 206 medication administrations per month. During the three-month study, each resident experienced 6 potential errors, with the most common being an attempt to give a medication at the wrong time.
There are a few reasons why the error rate in care homes is so high. Ala Szczepura, Professor of Health Services Research at Warwick Medical School, commented, “It is known that staff in care homes are administering, on average, seven different drugs to residents, and that medication rounds occupy approximately one-third of nursing time.”
Another reason is the resident’s inability to take control of their own medical care, since approximately 37% of people suffering from dementia in the UK now live in residential care homes and cannot voice their concerns about their medications. In these cases, automated systems may prove more effective at preventing error.
“New technology [such as barcode systems] can accurately alert staff to, and prevent, inappropriate attempts to administer drugs to residents. This tool can reliably be used by care staff as well as nurses to improve quality of care and patient safety,” Szczepura remarked.
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