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Medication errors can be caused by labels

Going into the emergency room or being admitted into a hospital might mean that you need to have some medications administered intravenously. It is important that these medications be administered correctly, especially in emergency situations. Because of the way IV medication bags are marked, there is a chance that the wrong medication could be administered.

A study published in the Journal of Patient Safety noted that anesthesia trainees were less likely to make an incorrect medication choice when a different label was used. The labels currently used on IV medications are printed on only side, have small lettering and appear cluttered. The new labels were printed on both sides and featured white letters on a dark background.

In some cases, the current medication labels appear similar to each other. That is the case for hetastarch and lidocaine. When the new labels and current labels for the bags were used in a study, there was a 20 percent higher chance of the anesthesia trainee grabbing the wrong bag when the current labels were used. The trainees needed hetastarch for a simulated emergency situation. In the study, more than 60 percent of the trainees chose hetastarch when the new labels were used. Only 40 percent chose the hetastarch when the current labels were used.

There are several factors that can affect the likelihood that a patient will get the correct medications in a healthcare setting. When a medication error is made, the patient can suffer harm, which can lead to considerable life effects and expenses. In those cases, the person may choose to seek compensation for the error’s damages.

Source: Infection Control Today, “Label Design May Affect Risk of Medication Errors in the OR,” accessed April. 16, 2015

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