Prevention of Medical Error – Term Paper

The impact of Medication Errors in healthcare


        Research indicates that medication errors serve as one of the leading causes of deaths in different countries such as the US today. According to Anderson & Townsend (2010), medication errors account for close to 200,000 deaths while millions may experience increased errors. Additionally, the government spending on preventable medical errors continues to grow taking a significant amount of the countries budget suggesting that close to 80% of healthcare spending creating the need to establish ways to address the quality of care to promote positive outcomes. According to Andel, Davidow Hollander & Moreno, 2012), medication errors have the potential to cause serious harm to patients as well as affecting the level of performance personal and professional aspects of the healthcare providers. The level of personal and professional responsibility for patient care and expectations are high among healthcare providers. Medical errors also tend to conflict with the goals of reducing suffering as well as preventing illness and have traditionally thrived in a culture of blame and silence limiting quality improvements in practices and systems. Medical errors are often inevitable in the current complex healthcare environments, which develops significant adverse effects to patients.

Medical error stories

Medication errors Overview

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¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†According to a definition by the National Coordinating Council for Medication Errors Reporting and Prevention, ‚Äúmedical errors represents preventable actions likely to lead to inappropriate medication which can cause harm‚ÄĚ (Anderson & Townsend, 2010). Such events represent poor professional practice, system, and procedures, dispensing, distribution and education. In a study conducted by ¬†Armstrong (2003), on the aspect of medication errors, there exist an overall 8.9 errors per 100 medication and majority of the errors arising from omissions, under dosage, over dosage and allergies to drugs. Additionally, the incidence rate of medication errors is relatively high in the US compared to other practices; however, a majority of the errors are preventable as they arise from more personal factors (Anderson & Townsend, 2010).

     Major attributions of medication errors are linked to previous experiences and communication problems between healthcare providers or team delivering care. Medication errors is often a common aspect in the most healthcare setting and influenced by a variety of factors which leads to a reduction in the overall quality of life as well as increased burnout and depression rates. Different key aspects are associated with medication errors among them being poor labeling of drugs which may influence the provision of wrong medication by the nurses leading to adverse outcomes. Drug labeling can be both at the healthcare organizational level and the manufacturers level which is also common in different settings. According to research by  Armstrong (2003) health care organizations have been on the look for approaches to improve their quality of care they provide as well as enhance the operational.

         Medication errors are also influenced factors such as emotional distress and job-related stress which could be affected by the increased workload and staffing ratio which makes the care providers overwhelmed and; hence, deliver less quality care that does not address the patients. Workload issues in the workplace is also a key stressor to the health providers which tends to affect the quality of services they provide to the patients leading to adverse outcomes. The current healthcare environment tends to be complex creating the healthcare providers to establish more efforts towards effective care provision (Anderson & Townsend, 2010).

         According to research by Armstrong (2003), medication errors have also influenced the lack of a collaborative approach or teamwork in healthcare. A collaborative approach is critical in health settings since it ensures equal participation of the professions as well as sharing expertise in the delivery of care. Hence, care provided through teams takes into account the patient needs and preferences. However, the absence of teamwork or collaborative seems to suggest that there are high probabilities of creating accidents or medication errors since the majority of the physicians fail to raise their opinions in regards to the kind of drugs provided.  In pursuit of productivity indicators, the error sate among workers may be high resulting in high human and financial costs.  Medication prescription is also seen as a primary form of medical error and tends to be widespread, complex and risky to the patients and serves as the most common type of inpatient mistakes that are preventable (Armstrong, 2003).

         The risk level of medication errors vary between patients such as children, and the elderly are more likely to face adverse effects of medication errors compared to patients in other age brackets. Drugs that look alike or have similar names and physical appearance may have the potential of increasing medical errors and can cause severe patient harm. On the other hand, a significant number of the medical errors may be influenced by the inability of the management in healthcare settings or failure of the healthcare settings such as outlining the roles of each member in patient care. In most cases, the majority of the medication errors are caused by nurse due to the prescriptions provided by the physicians suggesting that the problems can arise from the leadership hierarchy in the organizational. Healthcare settings that fail to encourage accountability or promote effective teamwork have higher risks of increased the medication errors (Mazur & Chen, 2009).

Prevention of Medication Errors

         As earlier established, the majority of the medication errors are preventable; hence, creating a solution requires addressing the existing problem such as teamwork or workload issues among healthcare providers. The government has a critical role in reducing the rising rates of death rates resulting from medication errors by addressing the gaps between the number of patients and the staff. The aspect suggests that the care providers will have less workload; hence more likely to deliver effective services and reduce medication errors influenced by issues such as workload and stress. Additionally, there is a need to motivate healthcare providers to reduce emotional problems which have the potential of increasing the risks of preventable errors such as through better compensation for the care providers, better working environments and growing the healthcare resources necessary in the provision of quality care to patients. Motivation is a key factor that can help in reducing the effects of care providers problems being transferred to the patients (Mazur & Chen, 2009).

         On the other hand, medication errors arising from prescriptions or medication can be addressed in several ways such as streamlining the ordering process for a drug where clinicians should have the role of selecting the most appropriate medication and dosage for the patients rather than delegating the tasks to the nurses. The preventive measure above is also linked to the solution of staff ratios which will ensure the number of care providers is adequate in addressing patient problems without increasing the risks of adverse effects (Armstrong, 2003). Pharmacists can also help in reducing the errors through the proper reading of prescriptions and consultations. Additionally, they must confirm the appropriate quantity and possible drug interaction and allergies and efficiently advise patients. The administration also has a vital role in reducing medication errors such as ensuring a safe supply of medicines as well as setting guidelines for the care providers to ensure patients get correct medication on time as well as enhancing the accountability of care providers. However, increased collaboration between all stakeholder in care provision can help in reducing the medication errors and associated adverse effects (Mazur & Chen, 2009).


         Medication errors have been described as one of the major problems affecting the healthcare industry in the US today. It accounts for a significant number of deaths yearly with the risk levels varying between different aspects such as workforce issues and medication problems. However, the research on the medication errors presents the notion that there is a need for collaboration or teamwork as well as the provision of more personalized care to reduce the occurrence of medical errors. Additionally, resolving the workforce issues such as workload, stress and enhancing their motivation can help in promoting positive outcomes in healthcare.


Andel, C, Davidow, S.L, Hollander, M & Moreno, D.A  (2012). The economics of health care quality and medical errors. Journal of Healthcare Finance, 39(1).

Anderson, P., & Townsend, T. (2010). Medication errors: Don’t let them happen to you.;American Nurse Today,;5(3), 23-28.

Armstrong, D. (2003, Nov 18). Study finds increase in medication errors at U.S. hospitals.;Wall Street Journal;Retrieved from

Mazur, L. M., ; Chen, S. (. (2009). An empirical study for medication delivery improvement based on healthcare professionals’ perceptions of medication delivery system. Health Care Management Science, 12(1), 56-66. doi: 9076-5.