How to Combat Medication Mistakes with the Right Technology, Procedures

Medication errors do not get as much press as other healthcare issues, but they are pervasive in the United States. A landmark study by the Institute of Medicine estimates there is one medication error every day for every inpatient.1 Researchers estimated one million errors a year and 7,000 deaths due to medication mistakes.

In fact, a Johns Hopkins University study in 2016 found medical errors – including medication mistakes – are widespread enough that they would rank as the third leading cause of death in the United States if statistics were tracked correctly.2

Among the recommendations to combat this problem are the implementation of decentralized medication distribution in hospitals, and information technology to keep patient information close to the patient and eliminate common dosing errors and medication mix-ups.

Carstens’ MediRoo™ is an advanced solution for secure, accurate medication dispensing at the point of care. The wall-mounted units allow medication to be easily administered to patients at the bedside or other critical location. This eliminates pharmacy trips, reduces administration steps, minimizes distractions for nurses, and diminishes the risk of errors.

MediRoo™

Using Technology, Improved Design for Preventing Medication Errors

Medication errors impose a heavy burden on patients, employers, healthcare providers, family members, hospitals and insurers. But the good news, according to a report by the Institute of Medicine, is much of that harm can be prevented with strategies and techniques that have already been identified.3

Eliminating drug errors would potentially avoid seven million hospitalizations and doctors’ visits annually, and save $21 billion in healthcare spending, according to the National Quality Forum.4

Healthcare has not made as much progress as other industries in reducing errors, in part because of the complexity and variability in the way healthcare is delivered, explained Kenneth Sands, who directs healthcare quality at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, to The Washington Post.5

Less than 30% of a nurse’s time is spent at the bedside, according to a recent hospital time and motion study published by thePermanente Journal. In addition to patient care activities and assessment, they are also charged with documentation, care coordination and medication administration. According to a recent questionnaire completed by 272 nurses from 17 intensive care units in the state of Wisconsin, the most frequently experienced performance obstacles include delays in getting medications from pharmacies, patient rooms not being well-stocked, and time spent seeking supplies or charts. The results of this survey were published in the journal Nursing. Quality advocates urge hospitals to standardize procedures, in a manner similar to the strict sequence of steps flight attendants follow to prepare for a flight for takeoff.   Wadd WB, Blissenbach TJ. Medication-related nursing time in centralized and decentralized drug distribution. Am J Hosp Pharm. 1984 Mar;41(3):477-80.

A nurse’s time is precious, which means well-designed point of care tools can help. Think about a 12-hour workday where a critical activity is occurring every 1-1.5 minutes. Even a small decrease in the time spent walking, getting meds, charting and info retrieval can lead to meaningful reductions in errors and better patient care overall.

Research has shown that decentralized drug distribution reduces order processing time and errors.6 Carstens’ MediRoo™ can play a leading role in best medication practices by offering secure and accurate medication dispensing at the point of care. According to the compelling Wellstar Quality Improvement Study, by decentralizing medication stations close to the patient, nurses’ interruption and distraction time was decreased by 67%.

By implementing the right systems, you can reduce adverse events due to medication errors.   Learn more about how you can improve medication storage and distribution at the point of care with Carstens’ MediRoo™ by visiting Carstens.com.

1. Institute of Medicine (IOM). To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1999.
2. Makary Martin A, Daniel Michael. Medical error—the third leading cause of death in the US. BMJ 2016; 353 :i2139.
3. Institute of Medicine (IOM) Preventing Medication Errors: Quality Chasm Series. Washington, D.C. National Academy of Sciences Press, 2006
4. National Priorities Partnership, Preventing Medication Errors: A $21 Billion Opportunity. Washington, DC: National Quality Forum Action Brief: 2010.
5. Cha, Ariana Eunjung, Rsearchers: Medical errors now third leading cause of death in United States, Washington Post, 5/3/2016, accessed via https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2016/05/03/researchers-medical-errors-now-third-leading-cause-of-death-in-united-states/
6. Wadd WB, Blissenbach TJ. Medication-related nursing time in centralized and decentralized drug distribution. Am J Hosp Pharm. 1984 Mar;41(3):477-80.