When a PA has the authorization to write prescriptions for controlled medications, it can lead to a more effective physician-physician assistant team by allowing the physician to spend more time with patients with fewer interruptions. It can also limit unnecessary visits to the emergency department or return office visits for the patient. All of these benefits result in lower costs to both physicians and patients.
However, along with the benefits of PA’s being able to write prescriptions comes the potential risk of medication errors. Medication errors can leave the PA opened to litigation. One way to help mitigate the chance of medication error is by ensuring accurate prescription writing. The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention (NCCMERP) has developed the following suggestions to improve the clarity of prescription orders in order to prevent medication errors:
- All prescription documents should be legible and verbal orders should be minimized.
- Prescription orders should include a brief notation of purpose (e.g., for sore throat) to help further assure that the proper medication is given and to add an extra safety check in the process.
- All prescriptions should be written in the metric system except for therapies that use standard units.
- Prescribers should include age and weight of the patient on the prescription order.
- Prescriptions should include name of drug, exact metric weight or concentration and dosage form.
- A leading zero should always precede a decimal expression of less than one. A trailing zero should NEVER be used after a decimal.
- Prescribers should avoid the use of abbreviations including those for drug names and Latin directions for use.
- Prescribers should avoid using vague instructions.
These suggestions, when applied by a PA, will decrease the chance of a medication error happening. A decreased chance of an error occurring will naturally decrease the risk of a claim being brought against a PA for medical malpractice.
For more information on risk management and personal medical malpractice insurance, visit www.MedEdge.com.