According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2% to 5% of all hospital admissions are the result of a medication error. Residents of New York City may be disheartened to hear that most of these errors were preventable. Of those admitted patients who suffered from a medication error, 30% incurred some sort of harm, including severe harm for 7% of them.

Hospitals and medical centers should do something to prevent these errors, first of all by recognizing that some run a higher risk of being victims than others. The elderly, patients who suffered kidney failure, patients with one or more chronic diseases and those with a complex medication regimen are all at an especially high risk.

Medical centers could establish a program concerning medication safety. Another good step is to standardize the concentrations of drugs and to use nationally standardized concentrations where these are available. Hospitals should also have a plan outlining what doctors can do when there is a drug shortage and when a drug is available only in a different size or concentration.

Electronic health records and automated dispensing systems are not without their imperfections. Hospitals should make sure to address these. For improved safety overall, there must be collaboration between healthcare professionals of different specialties rather than the pervasive “silo mentality.”

Medication errors are among the leading grounds for medical malpractice lawsuits. Any act of negligence on the part of a doctor or nurse that leads to patient harm can form the basis for a malpractice claim, but only if several requirements are met. For instance, injured patients must prove that there was a pre-existing doctor-patient relationship. To see if they could pursue a claim, victims may want to discuss their situation with an experienced attorney.