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Does California's Medication Error Reduction Plan help patients?

Mistakes involving medications can have life-long or even fatal impacts for affected patients. They are serious mistakes that affect Californians' lives, and yet they continue to happen. Preventing medication errors is so important that California has adopted a Medication Error Reduction Plan or MERP Program.

Through the MERP Program, California's Department of Public Health seeks to encourage not only safe but also effective medication use in the state's General Acute Care Hospitals. In order to achieve this goal, the program seeks to reduce those medication-related errors and adverse events that are preventable. In order to be licensed, each GACH hospital has to adopt a MERP, which has to include information about how the hospital will use technology to reduce medication errors. MERP plans must be reviewed and approved by hospitals annually.

Significantly, not all GACH hospitals in the state have complied with MERP's requirements. In a review of the GACH hospitals to which the MERP requirements apply, the California Department of Public Health found that of the 290 hospitals that had completed the required surveys, out of a total of 374 hospitals, only 23 hospitals were in compliance with MERP requirements. An astounding 267 hospitals had noted deficiencies, with an average of three deficiencies per study.

The most common deficiencies included the hospitals' failure to develop proper procedures and policies for safe use of medications. Hospitals' failure to annually review their MERP implementation and its effectiveness was the second most common deficiency.

The MERP Program seeks to protect patients from dosage mistakes and other fatal medication errors, and yet, frighteningly, hospitals are not complying at the rate at which they should. If you or a loved one has been injured due to a medication error, you may should understand that recourses might be available to you. A medical malpractice suit could help hold a negligent medical professional or hospital liable for their wrongdoings. Additionally, this could help an injured patient recover compensation for their losses and damages.

Source: California Department of Public Health, "Medication Error Reduction Plan (MERP) Program," accessed April 29, 2016

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