Some 7 million people in West Virginia and across the U.S. fall victim to preventable medication errors every year. Worldwide, 2% to 5% of all hospital admissions are due to these types of errors, and of those patients, 30% suffer medication-related harm and 7% suffer severe harm.

Some factors will raise the risk for a medication error: for example, advanced age, the presence of one or more chronic diseases, kidney failure, the taking of multiple medications and the use of high-risk medications. These medications can include insulin, opioids, antimicrobials, anticoagulants like heparin and electrolytes like potassium. The risk level may differ, of course, with the environment that pharmacists and other healthcare professionals are working in.

High-risk medications are simply those that are liable to cause serious harm should an error occur. To avoid errors with these drugs, hospitals and medical centers should limit access to them. Other steps that can be taken to reduce medication errors in general include hiring a medication safety leader, using nationally-recognized concentrations for drugs and coming up with an action plan in case of shortages.

Above all, health care professionals across different disciplines must be able to collaborate with one another. Pharmacists, who have undergone medication-centered training, are in a unique position and can guide the dialogue between professionals.

Medical centers may do all they can, but a doctor may still commit an error out of a failure to live up to an objective standard of care. This is where medical malpractice law comes in and says that the victims of such negligence are eligible for compensation. Filing a claim and seeking that compensation can be difficult, though, so victims may want legal representation.