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What do medication mishaps have in common with car crashes?

Both car crashes and medical malpractice are among the top causes of death for adults in the United States. You might imagine that the similarities between these two disparate events would end there, but you would be wrong.

Beyond just being a risk that could lead to injury or death, car crashes and a specific form of medical malpractice, medication errors, share another interesting characteristic. Once you realize what it is, you could become a better advocate for yourself and the people you love if an extended hospital stay is necessary.

Both car crashes and medication errors share a common cause

Medical mistakes and motor vehicle crashes occur for a large number of reasons. However, certain causes are far more common than others. You likely already know that distracted driving is incredibly risky. People looking at their phones, singing along to the radio or eating while driving can cause crashes.

What you may not realize is that distraction also factors into a significant number of medication mistakes. In fact, an analysis of causation for medication errors found that roughly 75% of drug mistakes in medical settings are the result of distraction on the part of the person preparing or administering the drug. Dosage errors are a common form of medication error, and they can be fatal if the patient gets too much of a drug.

A nurse talking with her friends about a family issue might put the wrong medications into a cup for a patient. A distracted pharmacist staring over their shoulder at the television might do a mediocre job of mixing a medication.

Distraction looks different in a hospital than it does in a car

You can often spot distracted drivers from far away because they have their phones in their hands or are animatedly speaking to someone else. Spotting someone distracted in a medical setting may be more difficult.

In some cases, a nurse rushing in to give you a medication might be in the middle of a conversation with someone or on their way to another patient’s room. If they aren’t mentally focused on what they do, they can give you the wrong drugs or the wrong dose. Try to make sure the person giving you medication knows your name and what medicine you need to take.

Anyone affected by medication errors or other forms of medical malpractice may need to consider taking legal action against the medical facility where the mistake occurred.

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