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Medication errors injure over a million patients a year. Medication errors are by far the most common medical error. A report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, found than in any given week, 80% of U.S. adults take at least one medication. Almost one third take at least five different medications. The committee found at least one medication error per day occurred with each hospital patient.

The committee also found at least 25% of medication related injuries are preventable. The cost of these errors occurring in hospitals alone is estimated to amount to $3.5 billion a year. This does not take into account the human loss of life or the pain associated with these errors.

If President Obama wants to overhaul the medical system, he should start with preventing medication errors, in hospitals, nursing homes and clinics.


  1. Gravatar for Martine Ehrenclou
    Martine Ehrenclou

    Frank, you covered such an important topic. You are so right that medication errors are the most common medical error.

    What Obama is doing as part of overhauling the medical system, is to force hospitals to go IT. Computerizing all health records can help prevent some medication errors, but the cost to hospitals is very high as you can imagine.

    What I wish Obama would do is put some of the money that he has allocated for this transition to IT, into increasing the nursing force in hospitals to alleviate the current drastic, nationwide nursing shortage.

    Not all medication errors can be prevented by computerizing health records. A good RN who is paid well, treated with respect and not asked to work overtime repeatedly, will do more than prevent medication errors. A rested and alert RN can prevent all sorts of medical errors in hospitals. But it seems as though nurses, the lifeline for the hospitalized patient, has been overlooked.

    Nurses can only do so much if they are caring for too many patients, asked to do massive amounts of paperwork (charting) for each patient and asked to work overtime on a regular basis

    All the more reason for a hospitalized patient to enlist the help of a loved one to be his or her advocate to oversee and monitor care. The goal of the advocate is to prevent medical errors, medication mistakes, the spread of hospital-acquired infectious diseases, falls, bed sores and more. I interviewed over 150 nurses and physicians for my book which is about how to be a proactive advocate for a loved one.

  2. Gravatar for frank

    Martine, Thank you for your support of placing the blame where it belongs. Nurses are the front line, but often over worked and underpaid. We need IT and well paid staff...

    Where can I get a copy of your book?

  3. Gravatar for karen mercereau, RN
    karen mercereau, RN

    Excellent point made. This is one area where RN Patient Advocates can have a major impact. Many times errors occur because people have no idea what they are taking; they are told to take the pill, so they do. An RN Patient Advocate empowers an individual and engages him in his own care through education re: his diagnosis and what the meds are actually for and how they should be taken. Education about meds saves lives.

    Karen Mercereau, RN Patient Advocate

  4. Gravatar for Frank


    Thank you for your comment. I don't know much about Patient Advocates. I do know that patients need to question everything that is done for them. That is the safety net that will help prevent these medication errors.

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