Computers don’t make mistakes, or so we’re told. One of the advantages of computerizing medical records, prescribing systems, and other systems is to eliminate the chance of human error. People make mistakes, but computers can only do what they are programmed to do.
Unfortunately, the fact the computer needs to be programmed to do the right thing in the first place remains a stumbling block. All software has glitches, even software that costs millions of dollars and has thousands of hours of troubleshooting. And all software is limited in its programming capabilities.
A recent study by BMJ Quality and Safety looked at one aspect of medical safety, and it did not like what it found. A computerized system for medication administration was evaluated, and the findings were sobering. Rather than dwelling on errors the computer made itself, the researchers instead analyzed how many physicians’ errors the computer allowed through. The computer failed to catch nearly a quarter of the mistakes.
Computers might very well be the future of medicine, but the future isn’t here yet. And in defense of the machines, plenty of medication errors happen without them. Common medication errors include:
- Patients’ orders being mixed up and patients being given the wrong medicine
- Patients being given too much or little of a medication (dosage error)
- Patients being given medications that are contraindicated (either due to other medications they take or allergy)
- Medications being administered incorrectly
Most medication errors occur when doctors and nurses don’t pay enough attention. Attention to detail is paramount for healthcare workers, but it is unfortunately uncommon. If you or someone you love suffered because of medication error, it is important that you do what you can to make sure others don’t suffer. Please contact a lawyer to help you remind healthcare workers of the importance of attention to detail.