Prescription Drug Errors

When we’ve blogged previously about prescription drug errors or medication errors, we’ve usually concentrated on dosage mistakes or hospital mistakes in which patients received the wrong medication altogether.

Now, a new study shows that another prescription error is becoming more prevalent. Health Day is reporting that computer translations of prescription instructions in Spanish are often inaccurate and dangerously so. “The technologies that are currently available to produce instructions in the patient’s language are inadequate.” said Dr. Iman Sharif, chief of the division of general pediatrics at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delware.

According to Health Day, half of the Spanish language prescription translations reviewed for the study contained serious errors, some of which could lead to life threatening events. One particular translation pitfall involved “Spanglish” (the mixing of English and Spanish). For instance, the English word “once” means one time while the same word (spelled exactly the same) in Spanish means eleven. Misspellings can also wreak havoc.

Dr. Sharif recommends patients whose primary language is other than English bring a competent translator so that proper instructions can be translated properly. At some point, translation software needs to more accurately reflect the proper translation.