Your idea of a medical malpractice case may be that of an operation gone terribly wrong or a defective medical device doing more harm than good to a patient. Medical malpractice also covers medical negligence in doctors’ offices and outpatient clinics, frequently because of medication errors.
There are many possible issues that can lead to an outpatient medication error, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):
- A patient may meet with a doctor for a very limited time, and appointments may be weeks or months apart.
- Some people have a hard time managing medications on their own, especially if they take several.
- A patient who has more than one doctor or is being discharged from the hospital may not have their care properly coordinated. Each doctor involved may prescribe one or more medications, which may lead to a dangerous reaction with medications prescribed by another doctor.
Authors of one study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine followed 86 patients who had been hospitalized at a large academic medical center who were later seen by their primary care physicians within two months after discharge.
- Researchers found 49% of the patients experienced at least one medical error after leaving the hospital.
- Less than half of the primary care physicians were provided information about the discharge medications and plans for their patients.
Medication errors are “very common in ambulatory care” according to HHS:
- One study found that more than 4.5 million ambulatory care visits happen every year due to adverse drug events.
- Prescribing errors are “startlingly common in ambulatory practice.”
- The chance of a medication error is related to the patient’s understanding of the dosage, proper administration and potential adverse effects. If the patient has little knowledge of his or her health condition and there is poor patient education, there’s an increased risk of a medication error.
HHS states that there are more than 10,000 different medications that may be prescribed, and nearly a third of U.S. adults use five or more medications. Adverse drug events (ADE, or harm to a patient due to exposure to a medication) result in nearly 700,000 emergency department visits and 100,000 hospitalizations each year. Those treated in outpatient settings may suffer ADEs at a higher rate than those in hospitals.
From 2002 to 2012, an estimated 696,937 children under the age of six experienced out-of-hospital medication errors, with an average of 63,358 episodes per year, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Association of Pediatrics.
- The number and rate of medication errors went down as the age of children increased. Those younger than one year old accounted for 25.2% of medication error episodes.
- While the vast majority of cases were managed at home (93.5%), 4.4% were treated and released from a health care facility, 0.4% were admitted to a hospital (non–critical care unit), 0.3% were admitted to a critical care unit and 25 children died.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured due to a medication error caused by a nurse, physician or pharmacy, schedule a free consultation with our office by calling us at (973) 358-6134 or by using our online quick connect form. Statutes of limitations apply, so contact us as soon as possible so you can learn about your legal rights and take action to protect your interests.