A report released July 20 by the Institute of Medicine on the toll and frequency of prescription drug errors urges everyone, from patients and educators to industry and regulators, to play a role in enhancing procedures and vigilance so that errors and subsequent costs to health and the economy can be reduced.
Kathleen Stevens, Ed.D. R.N., professor of family nursing at the Health Science Center, is one of two nurses who served on the 15-member panel of medication safety experts from across the nation. Dr. Stevens is director of the Academic Center for Evidence-Based Practice in the Health Science Center School of Nursing.
The panel completed a 16-month-long study to canvass all scientific research on the subject. The report estimates that 1.5 million injuries per year are caused by preventable prescription drug errors, including 400,000 a year in U.S. hospitals. The report places a conservative estimate of $3.5 billion on costs associated with injuries.
“Every time we have a prescription filled, or one is filled for us, we put our faith in the system, that the prescription was filled properly and that it is what we need to help us recover from the illness or condition we face,” Dr. Stevens said. “This report is sobering, but it is the first step toward making a major dent in the issue of preventable prescription drug errors and their costs to society.”
Recommendations include moving U.S. health care providers away from paper-based prescription of drugs, with a goal of electronic prescribing of drugs by all providers by 2010.
The IOM report is part of a visionary series of reports originally launched in the late 1990s by Kenneth I. Shine, M.D., when he was IOM president. Dr. Shine is now executive vice chancellor of The University of Texas System.