A 1999 report called To Err is Human—from the Institute of Medicine—has estimated that 100,000 people each year were dying from medical errors. In 2009, a follow-up report found no improvement in patient safety. However, according to a new study in the Journal of Patient Safety, it appears the 100,000 estimate is now considered too low. The new information indicates that approximately 210,000 to 440,000 people are harmed each year in hospitals—leading to their deaths.
Sadly, many of these tragic medical mistakes are preventable. What these shocking numbers indicate is that there is a need for better focus in hospitals in order to stop and prevent medical errors from occurring. According to Don Scott, director of essentials of clinical medicine at the Georgia Regents University-University of Georgia Medical Partnership, “Any time an error occurs, it occurs because not just one person made an error, but because there were probably a series of errors.”
What’s the Cause of Some Medication Errors?
Sometimes, people aren’t the only ones to blame for medication mistakes—flaws in the system could be to blame. For example, a misunderstood feature on a bedside pump caused a patient to receive a dangerously high dose of medication. According to Dr. Stephen Lucas, a professor of quality and safety at the Athens Pulmonary Associates, an IV machine used to deliver drugs can lead to medication errors because there is not a routine for using this device.
Giving a patient the proper dose of medication via an IV pump is dependent on the patient’s weight. If a doctor entered a patient’s weight in kilograms instead of pounds, or if the machine was set for kilograms but a doctor thought he was entering pounds, the patient can receive too high of a dosage because a kilogram is double the weight of a pound. While doctors and nurses should not have made this type of medical error—pumps should not offer medical professionals the option between pounds and kilograms. Additionally, if hospitals had better processes and doctors could only enter patients’ weight in pounds, medical mistakes could be reduced.
Minimizing Preventable Medical Errors
Sadly, there are way too many preventable errors that occur nationwide. In order to decrease medical errors, Scott and Lucas believe physicians should use checklists in order to provide quality care and reduce medical mistakes. If every doctor would use checklists in operating rooms, patients in hospitals would be safer. In fact, the World Health Organization conducted a study of hospitals in eight cities worldwide and discovered that surgery-related deaths and complications were lowered when surgical checklists were used.
While checklists may help prevent some errors from occurring, many medical mistakes could be reduced if hospitals had better processes in place and if healthcare workers would have better focus, attention, and commitment to patient safety. Only then will medical mistakes be really reduced.
If you have been harmed due to a poor process, doctor error, or medication mistake, please contact Kennedy Hodges to speak with a qualified medication error attorney at 888-526-7616 in a free consultation. We also invite you to request a free copy of our report, How to Make Pharmacies Pay for Injuries Caused by Medication Errors.