Published On: Fri, Feb 17th, 2017

Getting Involved in Preventing Pediatric Medication Errors

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Visiting the doctor is not often an enjoyable experience, as it is typically prompted by a concern or ongoing medical issue which needs addressing.

While adults may come to grips with doctor’s visits relatively quickly, for children, interaction with the healthcare system can be overwhelming. This overwhelm creates a situation wherein parents face added challenges in their efforts to keep their children healthy. Unfortunately, adding to the stress of doctor’s visits is the potential for medical mistakes which can take place as often as they do in the landscape of adult healthcare.

Medical mistakes taking place in the younger patient population range in severity, but the three most common errors that take place include:

  • Misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of meningitis
  • Misdiagnosis of appendicitis
  • Errors in medication

Although all errors in pediatric medicine have the potential to rattle the trust parents have in the healthcare system, medication mistakes take on a life of their own. According to a leading medical solicitor firm in the UK, medication mistakes in children can rear their ugly head in one of four ways: ordering (56% of errors), administration (34%), transcription (6%), and dispensing (4%). A representative from the firm states, “Medication errors constitute more than 5% of pediatric malpractice cases, and physicians are at fault 69% of the time.” Mistakes related to medication can be devastating to a child’s health, making it necessary for parents to take steps to reduce the potential for medication errors at every step of the process.

Communicate with the Doctor

One of the issues surrounding pediatric medication errors is the lack of clear communication between parents and the child’s healthcare provider. Often, doctors and nurses are treating a significant number of young patients each and every day which can put a strain on the amount of time available for each patient visit. Communication may be short or unclear during an interaction with a doctor, but parents have the right to press the provider for additional information and details relating to the child’s diagnosis, the medication prescribed, and dosage of that medication.

Increasing the communication between parent and provider can help stave off medication errors as treatment progresses. If there are inconsistencies with the way the doctor stated a medication would work, or symptoms seem to remain or get worse after taking the medication, make it a point to share these details with the provider immediately. Similarly, parents must be proactive in sharing information on other medications or supplements given to the child at any point during treatment, and any information regarding allergies the from which the child may suffer. As in adult medicine, having open lines of communication among parents and pediatricians is a necessary part of maintaining the health of children who need medical care.

Ask for Help

Prescription medications can be complicated not only in how they work but also in how they are best administered. To help reduce the potential for medication errors in children, parents should be comfortable asking questions regarding any prescribed medications. Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists should be available to answer specific questions, including:

  • Should the child avoid any activities, food, or other medicines while taking this prescription?
  • How often is the medication supposed to be administered, and for how long?
  • Will improvement be immediate, or is there an anticipated delay in the effect of the medication?
  • What are the side effects of this medication?

Parents should also ask clarifying questions about the medication instructions, even if directions are located on the medication bottle itself. Clearing up any confusion about dosage, administration procedures, and potential side effects are a necessary component of staying on top of a child’s well-being.

Stay Involved

The best step any parent can take to ensure the safety and overall health of a child is intact is to stay involved in the healthcare process. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, nearly one in 10 parents were able to point out an error in their child’s healthcare that was overlooked by the doctor. Being able to identify mistakes is only possible when parents are engagedin their child’s medical treatment. This includes having honest discussions of care plans and alternatives, understanding why medications are prescribed and how they might help, and asking for clarifying information when the need arises. Taking these steps allows parents to take part in a child’s medical treatment proactively and potentially reduce the unfortunate events that come with medication errors.

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