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Pennsylvania Patient Authority Recommends Switch To Metric System To Reduce Medication Errors

Fatalities in the U.S. caused by medical errors have risen to approximately 250,000 annually. The true number is likely higher, as the National Institute of Health believes that 10% of such errors go unreported. The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority (PSA) is an organization that operates as an independent advocate for the safety of those seeking medical care. The group recently made a formal recommendation that the state’s hospital facilities make the transition to the metric system for measuring pharmaceutical products. They believe that conversion problems often lead to mistakes such as improper dosing.

Conversion Error

Elizabeth Wade is a medical safety officer with Concord Hospital who has been vocal about the possibility of these errors. She explained that the weights are in “metric now to prevent conversion errors”. The Institute for Safe Medication Practice as well as the Academy of Pediatrics both now support the practice of using the metric system for all patient-related measures. Supporters of a conversion say that these avoidable mishaps are likely causing lengthened hospital stays and may possibly be threatening lives. Some of the medications that have the highest risks include anticoagulants (blood thinners) and those for chemotherapy.

Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority

The PSA is encouraging medical facilities to transition to metric scales, as dosing is often calculated by an individual’s weight. The PSA was established in 2002 and this is the first formal opinion issued by the organization. They said that between 2008 and 2015 they found over 1,200 mistakes that were associated with the weight of a patient. At least one of these errors was confirmed to have been a contributing factor in a fatality. Many of the reported mistakes are involved with measures of pounds and kilograms. The state’s Department of Health is also now supporting the conversion.

Recent Studies

Medical errors are now the third most common cause of death. The U.S. has shown to have a higher rate of such errors compared to other well-developed countries. The MEDMARX Medication Error Reporting system was established is roughly 25 Pennsylvania hospitals. Over the course of one-year, there were nearly 17,000 errors recorded. The results have demonstrated the need for upgraded procedures and practices in the realm of prescribing and dispensing medications.

Common Mistakes

Mistakes involving medications can have dangerous results such as allergic reactions or overdoses. There are many ways that medication-related mistakes often occur such as the following:

  • Doctors may become distracted and improperly complete a prescription
  • Handwritten prescriptions may be improperly interpreted
  • Many pharmaceutical products have very similar names such as Celebrex, Celexa, and Cerebyx
  • Misinterpretations of abbreviations such as q.d. (once daily) instead of q.i.d. (four times per day)

Medical Malpractice Claims

The Food & Drug Administration estimates that medication errors contribute to approximately one fatality each day. When injuries or fatalities result from the negligence of a medical professional such as a doctor or pharmacist, those harmed may pursue medical malpractice claims for damages. Those who are victims of medical negligence are advised to seek experienced legal counsel when pursuing a claim.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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