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The myth about IV drugs that puts hospital patients at risk

Modern prescription medication comes in many different forms. Most people are familiar with standard tablets and capsules, which are taken orally. Some medications are available via alternate means of delivery, such as transdermal patches. There are even patches that can administer a timed injection in a home environment.

Administration errors occur even when conscientious patients are careful about their medications. Some patients forget to take a dose on time or otherwise unintentionally compromise the safety and efficacy of their own treatment.

Partially out of fear of “messing up,” a number of people operate under the misconception that they will be substantially safer if they receive medication in a hospital setting, especially if they’re receiving intravenous (IV) medication. While IV medication does largely eliminate the possibility of a patient making a mistake in their own treatment, human error is still a major safety concern for those receiving IV medication.

The majority of medication errors involve IV drugs

Researchers have long identified IV medication as a common source of medical malpractice and medication errors. In fact, a recent analysis of reported medical mistakes found that roughly 60% of errors analyzed as part of the study resulted from IV mistakes rather than mistakes involving the administration of pills or other forms of medication.

There are multiple ways that IV errors occur. For example, IV medication errors happen at the pharmacy when a specialist mixes up a medication. They could add the wrong ingredients or label the medication with the wrong dosage. Even if everything goes right during the creation of the medication, the potential is there for a mix-up or mistake to occur at a hospital, nursing home or infusion clinic where someone receives IV medication.

Or, the nurse inputting the medication information into the machine that operates the IV delivery system could input the code for a different medication. They could get the timing or the dosage wrong. Any of those mistakes might lead to adverse reactions or overdose.

IV mistakes are almost always preventable

There are some medication errors that result from truly freak accidents that even the most careful medical professional would struggle to avoid. Still, a large number of IV mistakes in particular, would not occur if the medical professional involved in formulating or administering the IV medication honored professional standards of care.

Both individuals who suffer adverse medical consequences because of a medication error and family members who lose a loved one as a result of such mistakes may have grounds to take action against a care provider. Seeking compensation for medical malpractice can reimburse your family for its losses and result in consequences for the professional or facility that made avoidable mistakes that led to harm.