/publications/issue/2003/2003-12/2003-12-7554

Congress Debates Legislation to Curb Rx Medication Errors

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    Four years after the Institute of Medicine shocked pharmacy with a report suggesting that 98,000 Americans die annually because of medication mixups and other medical errors, Congress has begun to seriously consider a new federal funding program to help hospitals and skilled nursing facilities develop high-tech solutions to the problem.

    The legislation, introduced by Sen Bob Graham (D, Fla) as the "Medication Errors Reduction Act of 2003," would provide nearly $100 million a year in grants for the next 10 years to encourage hospitals to develop computerized systems. Such systems would permit "automated pharmacy dispensing to make sure the nurse receives the correct medication in the correct dosage for the correct patient."

    According to Graham, hospitals would be free to use the federal grant money "to improve patient safety at every stage of the medication delivery process." Among other measures, he envisions funding for "electronic prescribing systems that can intercept errors at the time medications are ordered; electronic medical records to alert doctors to possible drug interactions;" and "bedside verification? using bar codes on patient wristbands and medications."