Seen in the emergency department, a man with insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus had not taken insulin for 3 days. His blood glucose levels were in the 800s with an anion-gap acidosis and positive beta hydroxybutyrate. While awaiting an ICU bed for treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis, the patient received fluids, an insulin drip was started, and blood glucose levels were monitored hourly. When lab results showed he was improving, the team decided to convert his insulin drip to subcutaneous long-acting insulin.
A powerful anti-clotting medication is ordered for a patient admitted for coronary intervention. Due to a forcing function in the computer order entry system, the intern enters an arbitrary maintenance infusion rate, assuming that the pharmacy will fix it if it is wrong. The pharmacy dispenses it as written, and the nurse administers it—underdosing the patient by a factor of 40.
Anticoagulant therapies such as heparin and warfarin are considered high-alert medications, due to the high potential for patient harm if used improperly. They have been associated with adverse events in a variety of settings, including in hospitalized patients and outpatients, and ensuring the safety of patients receiving anticoagulants is a National Patient Safety Goal for 2008. This sentinel event alert issued by the Joint Commission discusses the root causes of anticoagulant-associated patient harm and recommends strategies for reducing errors, including implementation of a pharmacist-led anticoagulation service. Sentinel event alerts are intended to promote rapid implementation of patient safety strategies, and adherence to these recommendations is assessed on site visits by the Joint Commission. Note: This alert has been retired effective October 2019. Please refer to the full-text link below for further information.
Housestaff evaluate and admit a severely ill patient with lupus, suspect a viral syndrome, and do not initiate antibiotics. Despite discovery of the correct diagnosis in the morning by the attending, the patient dies.
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