Modern medicine has come quite a long way, but human errors in hospital settings are ever present. Despite the many years of combined training, expertise and experience, there are still many opportunities for individual health care providers and care teams to make errors with consequences ranging from minuscule to deadly.
In addition, the increasing reliance on advanced technologies and electronic record keeping creates more opportunities for such errors. Human errors can occur in the handling of these advanced technologies and the interpretation of the results; and the technologies themselves have the potential for failure. And despite some recent gains in reducing the frequency of hospital-borne pathogens, the risks of infections acquired in the hospital are still very high and can be especially dangerous to patients with compromised immune systems.
The number of deaths and injuries that occur because of medical errors in hospitals are hard to tabulate but a 2013 study found that medical errors contribute to patient deaths somewhere between 210,000 and 440,000 annually. Reducing these numbers should be at the forefront of healthcare, hospital, and medical education improvement and reform.
There many types of possible errors that occur in hospitals. Errors generally fall into two large categories — the first being diagnostic errors that lead to wrong or absent treatment. The second category of error is in the execution of the correct treatment choice, and includes such errors as providing the wrong medication, the mixing up of charts, and the miscommunication between healthcare professionals. Medication errors — such as the mishandling of automated medication pumps, or the giving of the wrong medication or medication dosage to the patient — have a large visibility because these simple errors can lead to patient deaths. Other common hospital errors include infections from central lines left in too long, complications from anesthesia, infections, patient falls, and pressure ulcers.
Hospital errors can result from one or more factors or events: the personal mistake of an individual doctor or nurse or technician; a collective team or institutional failure; bad or missing standards, policies, or protocols; inadequate training of the hospital staff; and staffing shortages.
A recent book on the reduction of human errors highlighted simple fixes for hospitals such as simplifying processes and procedures, standardizing handoffs between shifts and common treatments, and mandating the use of checklists. Supporting hospital staff through advanced training for error prone situations, improving the work environment for hardworking medical professionals, and even adjusting work schedules so no part of a care team is suffering from fatigue are also recommended for the reduction of hospital errors.
The research and literature on hospital errors are clear on one fact. Much more progress needs to be made to make hospital stays safer for patients. If you or a family member have been injured in the hospital as the result of a medical error, please feel free to contact the lawyers at Menzer law, PLLC to determine if you have a medical malpractice claim that provide you with compensation you for your injuries.
- “Medical errors in American kill more people than AIDS or drug overdoses. Here’s why.” – Link
- “13 Principles to Reduce Medical Errors in Hospitals” – Link
- “Fatal mistakes” – Link
- “Strategies to Reduce Medication Errors: Working to Improve Medication Safety” – Link
- “10 shocking medical mistakes” – Link