Common Medical Errors in the U.S.

Medical errors happen at astounding rates in the U.S. (nearly 100,000 deaths every year) and the best way to help prevent one from happening to you is to know what to look for.

Prescription abbreviation errors

Sometimes medication information and accompanying instructions are written quickly, and as a consequence, incorrectly. (Not to mention doctors don’t always have the best handwriting) This means pharmacists and caregivers may be providing you with the treatment regimen. Sometimes a D looks like a P. And sometimes “QHS” is read as “QHR,” which will have you taking your meds far too often. For a look at similar errors, have a look at this Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) PDF.

Drug interactions

There are a number of interactions which can make your prescribed drug dangerous to your health. Your doctor should know these interactions and should make sure you are notified of them. Failing to do so will put at risk for great harm. This includes drug-to-drug interactions and drug-to-diet interactions.

IV mistakes

One of the most common mistakes occurring in hospitals are those involving intravenous meds. The errors include problems with the line, as well as giving patients incorrect dosages.

Equipment errors

Sometimes the biggest problems occur for the simplest reasons. Anesthetic machines, x-ray machines, defibrillators, etc., have been known to malfunction for simply not having good batteries. Hospital staff is sometimes so concerned with the “big” issues that they overlook everyday problems, like dead batteries.

Billing mistakes

While not malpractice, on occasion a hospital commits a mistake in billing. It may not be intentional, but it can still cost you money. A medical bill could have some complicated charges that actually don’t have any relation to your care. Remember, when in doubt, scrutinize your bill and call the billing office.