According to the Institute of Medicine, medication errors injure 1.5 million Americans each year. A 2006 Institute of Medicine study found that there were 400,000 preventable drug errors in hospitals alone.
Unfortunately, the news gets worse. According to a report in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, medication errors are the most underreported medical errors. States that actually have medical error reporting requirements continue to miss errors that cause harm or, at the very least, if reported, could be a basis for further study as to how to avoid such errors in the future. In some states, the reporting requirements have loopholes that allow for medical errors including medication errors to remain unreported. A clear example of this may be found in state requirements that mandate the reporting of medical errors that cause “serious” harm or disability. In these situations, “serious” is open to interpretation and subjective. In other states, there are no penalties for not reporting medical errors.
State laws should adopt the definition of medical error put forth by the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention-any “preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm.”
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