Alert Fatigue and Connecticut Medication Errors

As all aspects of patient charting, including medication tracking, become more automated, the incidence of potential drug interaction alerts is skyrocketing. This in turn has given rise to a condition known as “alert fatigue,” in which health care providers see and hear these alerts so frequently they cease to have meaning. As they become more desensitized to this kind of alert, they place Connecticut patients at risk of harmful or possibly fatal prescription drug interactions.

Electronic health record technology has allowed caregivers to more effectively track and monitor possible side effects, drug allergies and interactions with existing medicines. However, a recent interview with a system IT pharmacist reveals that these systems cannot independently differentiate between common and rare or mild and severe drug interactions, side effects and allergies. A human mind is required to try to maximize the number of meaningful alerts while minimizing the incidence of medication-related injuries.

However, this internal sorting process sometimes means that alerts that should be acted upon slip through the cracks, largely because providers see so many of them. According to the pharmacist, by amending only 23 drug interaction reports within the internal system, the number of alerts was reduced by roughly 40 percent. While this may help reduce alert fatigue among health care providers, it also leaves room for dangerous interactions to harm or even kill unwitting patients.

In a case where a patient is harmed by a prescription error, an attorney for the victim may want to review the internal protocols for drug interactions, as well as the patient’s previous medical history and known conditions. The prescribing physician, pharmacist and other caregivers may be liable for damages including medical expenses, lost wages and compensation for diminished quality of life if a medical malpractice lawsuit is filed against the responsible parties and is successful.

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