A major medication error in a long-term care community that results in a disability or death, has immediate and devastating repercussions. We’ve all read the horror stories. These are the kind of errors that result in criminal prosecution, lawsuits, a mass exodus of employees, and a steady barrage of bad press. It goes without saying that, in most cases, the result will be closure of the facility.
Most medication errors, fortunately, are less severe in nature. Even so, each error can have an impact within the organization. And, often where there is one error, another is soon to follow. Here are some of the negative effects medication errors have on senior care facilities.
- Compromised health and wellbeing of patients.
- Anger, blame and guilt among staff. If this goes unrecognized and untreated, it can lead to major personnel issues.
- Massive legal fees, ranging from thousands of dollars to millions of dollars, depending upon the nature of the error and the outcome.
- Lower Quality Measures “QM” score on the 5-Star CMS scale.
- Damage to your reputation.
- Low morale among staff and management.
- Employee attrition, as staff members flee to other communities or to pursue other types of work.
- Difficulty attracting new hires, due to negative word-of-mouth about your community.
Looking at this list, you can get a sense of the strong ripple effect medication errors can have on a community. A few minor medication errors, here and there, can quickly become a slippery slope towards the eventual decline of an otherwise successful, well regarded community.
While there is no silver bullet in terms of eliminating medication errors altogether, there are things your community can do to reduce the likelihood of errors. Here are some of the most effective actions you can take.
- Proper training. Meds passing requires skill, patience and focus. Even a well-trained staff should be given periodic brush up training to ensure that they are still in compliance with best practices.
- Rest periods. Many hospitals and nursing homes have instituted mandatory, frequent rest periods to keep nurses and staff fresh and rested.
- Safeguards. It is important to tighten up those processes, already in place, to double check medications and ensure accurate dosage is given.
- Technology. Software platforms have evolved to dramatically reduce, if not eliminate, incidents of accidental medication errors. Automation such as Talyst’s InSite® System, includes an on-site dispensing unit and automation for all processes — managing, packaging, labeling and delivering “just-in-time” oral solid medication doses.
Even the smallest medication error should be taken as a warning sign that your community has some work to do. Whether it is to provide better training, more rest periods or to take advantage of new technology that reduces the likelihood of “human error”, all available solutions should be on the table and considered seriously.
No long-term care or skilled nursing facility sets out to fail its patients. Ours is the ultimate service industry, filled with good people who have made caring for others their life’s work. By putting programs and technology in place that minimize the potential of medication errors, you will be liberating and empowering your team to do the jobs you hired them to do; to care, respect and protect your residents.