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Alison Mynick, RN, Esq.
Alison Mynick, RN, Esq.
Contributor •

Medication Errors in Maine Hospitals

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One in 10 patients in Massachusetts hospitals suffers serious and avoidable medication mistakes.

Can what is happening to Maine patients in Maine hospitals be very different? Probably not.

The study by a Boston doctor, reported in the Boston Globe shows that the culprit is a doctor’s handwritten order for medicine in a patient chart. When a hospital switiches to a computerized ordering system the error rate is cut in half.

Why doesn’t every hospital just use a computerized system that requires the doctor to enter his order into the computer, where it can be matched agaisnt the patient’s weight, allergies and other medical data? Cost. The computerized system costs $400,000 per year. For small community hospitals in Maine, that would be a big cost. But the cost can be balanced against the tab the hospital is going to have to pick up for the extra days that each injured patient, on average, has to stay in the hospital. These days, insurance companies aren’t going to pay for hospital care caused by preventable medication errors.

And none of this analysis deals with the human side. Nothing in the Boston Globe article, or the response by the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals addresses what it feels like to be poisoned by a wrong medication, to have vital organs destroyed by a wrong medication, to have your life destroyed by a wrong medication. The cost of living your life the way it was before a medication error–priceless. But apparently only to you. Not to the hospital.