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Show Me the Signals

By Colton Bistline

My Story:
In third grade, my life started to change for the worse. A constant battle of leg pain and
constant bathroom trips left me and my family concerned. Almost six months later and
with countless medications and doctors, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. Now
currently in college, I have looked back on everything and wondered what took so long to
figure everything out. I wondered why I was given a medicine known to give pancreatitis and
how I was one of the victims. This all leads back to a huge problem not just in the United
States, but all over the world, doctors giving medication errors. My story was one of many that
happen every year in the United States. I was lucky, but others may not be as lucky as I was.
This is a serious problem that should not be overlooked. These problems could have been
avoided. There are ways to prevent these errors from happening, however, it is not going to be
easy, and it is going to take a full effort from the patients and doctors to fix this ongoing
problem.

Here’s Why My Story Isn’t Unique:
In my situation, I found that some medical errors occurred in the process. The term,
medication errors affect more than 100,000 people every year in the United States (FDA). A
medication error is a health problem in which a health professional misdiagnoses or gives the wrong medications to its patients and consumers (FDA). A medication error can be dangerous
for any patient. Death, life-threatening situations, disability, and long hospitalizations can occur
as a result (FDA). In my situation, the medication I was given shouldn’t have caused me
to be in a hospital for an extended period.

In the United States, medication errors occur with people of low income and people above the age of sixty-five. Hospitals in low-income cities are at the most risk of medication errors because they are least equipped with educated doctors and deal
with more people who are sick and cannot afford medications (FDA). This leads to a much
greater chance of a medication error occurring.

Who’s Solving This Problem:
The ISMP, Institute for Safe Medication Practices, is a nonprofit organization
that is focused on preventing medication errors (ISMP). This organization has been around for
more than 25 years, helping people and families who have experienced medication errors (ISMP). ISMP’s mission is advancing patient safety worldwide by empowering the healthcare
community to prevent medication errors (ISMP). The ISMP suggests taking extreme measures
such as asking lots of questions, getting second opinions, doing research, making sure you check
labels of medications, and if you see something, say something (ISMP). The ISMP has a set list
of goals for people and healthcare providers that would greatly reduce the risk of medication
errors in the United States. Some of these goals are to disseminate timely medication safety
information, risk-reduction tools, and error-prevention strategies, advocate the adoption of safe
medication standards by accrediting bodies, manufacturers, policymakers, regulatory agencies,
and standards-setting organizations, and collaborate with other patient safety organizations,
educational institutions, governmental agencies, and other healthcare stakeholders (ISMP).

Here’s How You Can Help:
The biggest thing anyone can do when going to the doctor or taking medication is to
ask questions. Asking questions like what are the side-effects, is this the only option for me,
what have others done with similar conditions or medications as me? You can also take surveys
from organizations like the ISMB that allow them to collect data and analyze reports of
medication errors (ISMB). Any medication error is investigated by the FDA and is investigated
fully until there is a conclusive answer to what happened (FDA). The biggest thing you can
do is say something if you see something. If something appears to be off about a doctor, a
medication, or a place where you are seeking medical attention, say something to someone. It
never can hurt to be extra precautions about medications and doctors. The biggest thing to
remember is if it happened to you, it could happen to someone else.

Conclusion:
I was just in third grade when I was the victim of a medication error. There are 100,000
others like me that also must deal with a medical error. The FDA is a great way to report any
medication error that happens to you or someone else. Nonprofits like the ISMP are here to also
investigate, research, and try and eliminate the chance of medication errors. Remember to say
something if you see something, and if it happens to you, it can happen to
someone else. Medication errors can be avoided, ask questions, do research, and double-check
everything. This problem can be greatly avoided, but it takes everyone to fix it. How will you
help?

Sources:

ISMP mission and Vision. Institute For Safe Medication Practices. (2022, February 2). Retrieved
October 16, 2022, from https://www.ismp.org/about/mission 
Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (n.d.). Working to reduce medication errors. U.S.
Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved October 16, 2022, from
https://www.fda.gov/drugs/information-consumers-and-patients-drugs/working-reduce-
medication-errors

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