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Health & Parenting

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Dennis and Kimberly Quaid’s Mission

Reducing medical errors is their focus after their twins received accidental overdose.

What can be done to reduce errors? continued...

Dennis and Kimberly flew to Texas in July to tour Children’s Medical Center Dallas, which is launching a new bar coding system. The couple personally observed the system of built-in checks as they followed the process of ordering a drug through administering it to a patient, Quaid tells WebMD.

“The nurses there told me they resisted it at first. But now, they say they wouldn’t want to give a medication to a patient without using the new system.” Besides the general resistance many people have to new technology, some nurses cite the extra time needed to scan medications but then see that the added effort pays off in reduced risk of error.

What can you do?

Unfortunately, those errors continue to happen, and more often than you might think. The statistic sounds unbelievable: On average, a patient in a U.S. hospital will be subject to one medication error a day. Some mistakes may be small and mostly inconsequential; others may be deadly.

Although much of the burden rests on hospital staff and computer systems, patients and their families can take steps, too. Among Dennis and Kimberly Quaids' tips:

  • Be there. Stay with the patient at all times. Never leave a hospitalized friend or relative alone.
  • Ask questions. Don’t worry about sounding nosy or seeming annoying. People should memorize the ”five rights“ of medication safety -- right patient, right drug, right dose, right route (such as IV, oral), right time. That won't guarantee safety, but it will help.
  • Know your rights. And enforce them. These include the right to see your medical records.
  • Go with your gut. If it seems like the wrong time for a medication, or if the medicine suddenly looks different, ask questions before accepting it or before letting your friend or relative accept it.

(Adapted from WebMD the Magazine’s September/October 2008 issue. Read the complete story here.)

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