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
- 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.
- 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.
- Infections, such as nosocomial and post-surgical wound
- Blood transfusion-related injuries, such as giving a
patient the blood of the incorrect type.
- Misinterpretation of other medical orders, such as failing
to give a patient a salt-free meal, as ordered by a physician.