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The wrong medication or the wrong dosage of a medication is prescribed either due to an erroneous diagnosis or negligence by the doctor, hospital staff, or pharmacy.

A 1990 study of prescribing medication errors in teaching hospitals detected an estimated 3.13 errors for each 1,000 orders written, and a rate of 1.81 significant errors per 1,000 orders. The high number of orders and the hectic nature of general and teaching hospitals make it quite a task to get all of the medication and prescription orders correct.

The most common errors where medication is concerned are the volume of dosage given to patients. Other possible medication errors include:

  1. Diagnostic error, such as misdiagnosis leading to an incorrect choice of therapy, failure to use an indicated diagnostic test, misinterpretation of test results, and failure to act on abnormal results.
  2. Equipment failure, such as defibrillators with dead batteries or intravenous pumps whose valves are easily dislodged or bumped, causing increased doses of medication over too short a period.
  3. Infections, such as nosocomial and post-surgical wound infections.
  4. Blood transfusion-related injuries, such as giving a patient the blood of the incorrect type.
  5. Misinterpretation of other medical orders, such as failing to give a patient a salt-free meal, as ordered by a physician.


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