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Hospital & Urgent Care Medication Errors

A visit to a hospital or urgent care often can be a stressful experience. You’re usually pretty sick or in a lot of pain when you go to an urgent care or a hospital. You’re putting yourself in the hands of health practitioners you probably have never seen before, and just hoping they can do something to make you feel better.

Because the doctors, nurses, and other health professionals at hospitals and urgent cares are seeing you for the first time, they don’t have the knowledge, relationship, or history with you that your family doctor has. They don’t know what illnesses or medical conditions you’ve had in the past or currently have, or what prescriptions, vitamins, and over the counter drugs you may be taking.

When seeing you for the first time, it’s vitally important that the physicians or other medical staff in hospitals and urgent cares ask you the right questions to make sure the treatment they give you doesn’t do more harm than good. Asking the right questions is especially important when it comes to prescribing you medications. They need to make sure that they don’t give you medication that might aggravate medical conditions other than the one for which they’re treating you. If you’re already on medications, they need to ensure they don’t give you medications that will adversely interact with the ones you’re on.

Doctors or nurse practitioners in hospitals and urgent cares frequently are busy, and sometimes overwhelmed. They’re often dealing with multiple patients at the same time, and each of them likely has a different medical issue. They might be juggling one person who’s dehydrated from a bad case of the flu with another person who might be having a stroke. It’s critical for health care providers in this context to make sure they’re giving the right instructions and that the right information goes into each patient’s chart. If they’re prescribing medications, they need to ensure that you’re getting the right medication at the right dose for you.

If you’ve suffered harm because of a medication error made by a hospital or urgent care, you may be able to make a medical malpractice claim. If the hospital or urgent care is found negligent, you may be able to recover your medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering. An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can go over the circumstances of your medication error and discuss possible options with you.

Common Types of Medication Errors

There can be different variations on what it means to be the victim of a medication error. Generally, prescription drug errors fall into these categories:

  • Wrong Medication — The hospital or urgent care gives you the wrong drug for your medical condition.
  • Wrong Dose — The hospital or urgent care gives you the wrong amount of the medication, or gives it to you at the wrong frequency.
  • Improper Administration of the Drug — This includes errors made when the doctor or nurse practitioner administers the drug to you directly, such as through an IV. If the doctor or nurse doesn’t follow the standard protocol for giving you the medication, that could be malpractice.
  • Failure to Follow Up — The hospital or urgent care should follow up with you to make sure you’re not having an adverse response to the medication, or give you discharge instructions that include information about what to do if you do have a bad reaction to the medication. If this isn’t done, the hospital or urgent care may be negligent.

Consequences of Medication Errors

When a patient gets the wrong drug, wrong dosage, or wrong frequency of a medication, the effects can be dire. In some cases, getting the wrong drug — or failing to get the right drug — can be fatal for a patient. The wrong drug could result in a serious adverse reaction, while failing to get the right drug to treat your medical condition could make your condition worse.

If your condition is disabling or life threatening and you don’t get the right treatment, the result could be tragic. For example, there’s a drug that can dramatically lessen the long-term consequences of some strokes if the stroke is caught soon enough and the drug is administered within a fairly narrow window of time. If the hospital or urgent care makes a mistake and gives you the wrong drug, you lose the benefits of the life-saving drug that wasn’t administered. You could end up with serious lifelong damage from the stroke.

Getting an incorrect medication also could lead to negative interactions with other medication you take, which also could result in serious damage to your body. Likewise, getting the wrong dose of a medication can lead to serious medical problems. For example, some drugs can cause damage to your internal organs if the dose is too high.