OPINION: Who Is Unaffected by Medication Error?

A conversation between a doctor and Ilene Corina of PULSE of NY reveals that even a lucky escape from medication error isn't without consequences.

I recently had a conversation with a physician about the rate of medication abuse and misuse in this country. Though he was someone interested in medical “errors” I was convinced he would understand through comparison how those are also related to the problems associated with medication use.

I spoke to him about stopping misuse, abuse and errors at the time the prescription is written by suggesting that society should start by encouraging the use of the Designated Medication Manager or DMM.  This “human tool” is used when a person about to start taking a new medication chooses someone to be his or her DMM – an assistant who helps the patient understand the medication. By choosing a partner before the prescription is written, families and loved ones can be part of the team that helps avoid medication misuse and abuse.

"What about the rest of us whose parents aren't doctors? The Dedicated Medication Manager is the answer."

Ilene Corina, President, PULSE of NY

The doctor said he understood because his son, who is a young adult, was in pain after surgery. He suggested that his son take the pain medication. When the son started acting oddly, the doctor checked the medication and found that the young man was taking too many.

But when I explained that this is exactly what we are talking about, and now he too is “one of us” — meaning someone who experienced an error — this physician said that because his son survived without injury neither he nor his family were affected.

There lies the disconnect. They were affected. There was no permanent injury, but what if he hadn’t told his son not to take so many pills?  What if he didn’t discover why his son was acting strangely? What if he misses the signs next time? This father’s intervention, based on his medical knowledge, may have saved his son’s life. What about the rest of us whose parents aren’t doctors? The Dedicated Medication Manager is the answer.

Do you have a story about medication error? Please consider sharing your stories and meet up with us on April 18, 2016 at PULSE of NY’s third annual patient safety Symposium as we all learn together about Medication Safety: It Starts Before the Prescription. Keynote speaker will be Michael R. Cohen, RPh, MS, ScD (hon), DPS (hon), President, Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP).

Early bird registration rate ends March 20.