A study published in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics says that Spanish-speaking people in the United States are a higher risk of injury from prescription errors, because of poor translation. These errors are occurring in large numbers, because the computer programs that pharmacies rely on to translate prescriptions, are vastly inadequate.
The researchers surveyed several pharmacies. They found that four out of every five pharmacies, depended on computers to translate prescriptions. Almost all of them claimed that they got the prescriptions re-checked manually, but the researchers found far too many errors in translation. The likely take-away: relying on a computer program to translate prescriptions is inadequate, at best, and in many cases constitutes malpractice. Couple that with the reality that too many pharmacists are over-worked and simply do not have time to double-check the computer. The fact that these errors are taking place is proof that, even though they claim to be manually re-checking computer translated prescriptions, these pharmacists are actually re-checking the prescriptions.
One of the biggest problems was that the computer programs created a mix of Spanish and English labels, creating the possibility of serious errors while reading the labels.
Some of the most frequently mistranslated words and phrases included • Dropper full • Apply topically • For seven days
• For 30 days • Take with food • Once a day
Part of the problem is that it’s hard to develop computer systems that translate from English to Spanish perfectly. There’s only so much a computer program can do, and for non-Spanish-speaking pharmacists, translating the prescription becomes next to impossible.
The researchers recommend a few steps to deal with this problem.
First, pharmacies could hire bilingual pharmacists who can explain prescriptions more accurately than a computer program can.
Technology must be improved to the point where the translation software makes fewer errors.
As an Atlanta prescription error lawyer, I believe that the first approach is likely to be more successful in preventing prescription errors. However, it would take a lot more than a study to encourage pharmacies to hire more Spanish-speaking staff. In the meantime, I would advise Spanish-speaking persons to take someone along who speaks the language, and can translate the prescription for them. There is simply too much on the line to hope that the pharmacy will remember to re-check a prescription that has been translated by a computer and already filled by a pharmacy technician.
Robert J. Fleming has been handling wrongful death cases, dental malpractice, bus accidents, car accident cases and premises injury cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 20 years. He practices in and around the Atlanta area including handling lawsuits in Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, Cobb and other counties and nearby cities including Alpharetta, Austell, Avondale Estates, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you have been seriously injured in a car accident and would like quality legal representation, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.