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Can technology cause a dangerous medication error?

A recent study shows that prescription technology used by doctors and pharmacists can cause more mistakes. Using computers provides some benefit, but it also introduces new ways to commit errors. Your life may be in danger if you receive the wrong medication.

 

How does the technology work?

Electronic prescribing and medication administration (ePA) makes your doctor’s and pharmacist’s job faster and easier. Your medical history, insurance information and a list of medications are all conveniently put together in one database, streamlining the entire process. Some benefits when it is used correctly are:

  • Prescriptions go from your doctor to your pharmacist faster
  • There is no chance of misreading handwriting
  • Medicines can be automatically administered at specific times

With these advantages, where do the errors come in? The main issue that the study found is that pharmacists spend less than half the time they used to reviewing the details of a prescription when using ePA technology. If your doctor prescribes the wrong medicine or orders too high or low a dose, your pharmacist has much less time to check for errors.

What to do if you need a new medication

Knowing the chance for errors, you might be nervous about taking any medicine at all. You would usually trust your doctor and the other people that take care of you, but modern technology adds a layer of risk. What can you do to make sure that no one makes a mistake along the way?

If you do need to take a new medication, be sure to communicate with everyone involved about what it is. Talk to your doctor about your prescription to make sure you know what it is for. Take advantage of the time you have to talk to your pharmacist—even if it is shorter than before.

The idea of you being responsible for taking the right medication is scary. Medical professionals are supposed to help you, not make things worse. If you are the victim of a medication error, you should know your rights to bring a malpractice claim against your doctor or pharmacist.

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Michael T. Ratton
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