Universal Standards for Medication Administration

Many of the 1.5 million people who are harmed by medication mistakes annually in U.S. hospitals receive them while they receive care from different departments. Connecticut patients should be aware that a cause of these errors, which often involve the erroneous administration of medicine taken intravenously or orally, is the absence of universal standards.

It is not unusual for patients to be given a different concentration of medicine and for their IV equipment to be replaced each time they are transferred to a new hospital section. The variance in the concentration of the medicine and the repeated detachment, reattachment and recalibration of the equipment both contribute to the occurrence of mistakes.

In order to prevent these errors, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists has initiated a project intended to institute nation-wide standards. Standardize 4 Safety is a three-year, cross-disciplinary approach that involves the participation of an array of health organizations at the local, state and national levels. Among the primary contributors is the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation and the Pediatric Pharmacy Advocacy Group. The project also involves the participation of a wide range of health care professionals, including pharmacists, nurses and doctors.

The initial phase examines the concentrations and units of dosage of compounded oral liquids and continuous IV therapy for adults. The second phase addresses the standardization of oral liquid medicine doses and continuous infusions for pediatric applications. The third and final phase establishes universal procedures for epidurals, analgesic pumps operated by patients, recurring IV medications and oral chemotherapy drugs.

The lack of universal standards for the management of IV and oral liquid medicine can result injuries, some of which can be fatal. People who have been harmed by a dosage mistake or similar error may want to speak with an attorney to see if it constituted compensable medical malpractice.