Medication errors happen in any clinical environment, whether this is primary care, specialist consultations or hospital care in all its departments. Adverse events due to the medication supplied to the patient occurs because health professionals are human beings and, as such, they can get it wrong.

When talking about adverse events caused by medication, they can be classified into two types: those that cannot be prevented due to different adverse reactions (unidentified allergies or intolerances or adverse effects due to the nature of the drugs, which may be of greater or lesser severity depending on the patient’s general condition and many other factors beyond the control of the health professionals) and those that can be prevented, which are commonly referred to as medication errors.

According to an article published in Farmacia Hospitalaria by M.J. Otero, R Martín et. al. medication errors in Spain cause between 4 and 5% of hospital admissions and can result in adverse events in 1.4% of hospitalised patients.

Not all medication errors harm the patient, either because the medication does not have the potential to cause harm, even if there is an error in administering the medication, or because they are identified after the drug has been administered and the necessary measures are taken to prevent such harm from occurring or from becoming serious. In any case, in addition to the harm to patients, medication errors are an additional cost to the health system that can and should be avoided as much as possible.

Technology to help prevent medication errors

Technology plays an essential role in preventing medication errors, especially in the hospital environment. Factors such as electronic prescriptions and barcode labelling are already present in the vast majority of hospitals, but additional effort is required to make drugs administration as safe as possible.

It is important that steps are put into place that help to prevent medication errors during the whole chain of events after a drug is prescribed by the doctor. Since a very large number of patients admitted to hospital receive their medication intravenously, the 5 “R” rule should always be taken into account: The right medication must be administered to the right patient, at the right time, in the right dose and in the right route.

Strict compliance with this rule requires the nursing staff to take extra care, who as human beings are subject to stress, work overload, fatigue and many other factors that can impair their ability. This is where technology, especially in the case of administering drugs intravenously, plays a vital role. High tech intravenous infusion pumps, such as the arcomed Chroma pumps, are equipped with the latest advances in terms of drug administration safety, that make up a system we call DERS (Drug Error Reduction System).

Verifying the correct medication can be done through the barcode on the label, using drug libraries (allowing the drug name to appear on the high-visibility colour screen built into our pumps) and by using colour coding of drugs, a system that is increasingly adopted by more hospitals as it allows the type of drug that will be used to be quickly identified visually, according to a colour code defined by international standards. The fact that the screens of the Chroma arcomed pumps are in colour means a unique advantage, as this colour coding can also be shown on the infusion pump’s screen. Also, customised drug libraries include two types of dosage limits: “soft limits” (can be exceeded but the pump emits an alarm) and “hard limits” that cannot be exceeded, preventing errors when programming the infusion flow according to the drug’s concentration.

All this together with directional connectivity with the hospital’s PDMS (Patient Data Management System), which allows not only to contrast medications with the patient’s history but to remotely control the infusion pumps, means an added benefit in safety that make the arcomed Chroma pumps a safe choice, both for the hospital and its professionals as well as for its patients.