Addressing the problem of Hospital Error
Written by John McMalcolm
Medical errors occur more frequently than we think.
While some of these errors only cause mild discomfort or illnesses, others may result in severe health problems or injuries, permanent disabilities or deaths.
Hospitals are responsible for ensuring the well-being of the general public, and they can suffer a substantial loss of reputation and credibility if they commit errors that jeopardize the safety of their patients.
As such, it is essential that hospital owners and managers devise an elaborate plan to reduce the occurrence of medical errors.
Alarming Statistics on Medical Errors in the U.S.
In a report released in 2012, the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated that 130,000 Medicare beneficiaries experienced an adverse event, such as medical error or infection, in a hospital every month, and only one out of seven incidents involving patients being harmed was reported.
In 2010, the department discovered that medical errors were directly or indirectly responsible for up to 180,000 deaths a year, making them one of the leading causes of death in the US.
Common Causes of Medical Errors
There are many reasons why medical errors occur.
Most medical errors are caused by faulty hospital processes and systems, while others may result from poor practices, incompetent practitioners, patients' misjudgments and other factors. The most common causes of medical errors include miscommunication among healthcare professionals, miscommunication between medical professionals and patients, misdiagnosis, complicated healthcare technologies, bad hospital systems, inexperienced and incompetent staff, unfamiliarity with medication names and abbreviations, and stress and fatigue.
What Hospitals Can Do to Prevent Medical Errors
With due understanding of the potential dangers posed by medical errors, many hospitals are seeking to adopt new healthcare technologies to minimize errors.
One of these technologies is the computerized physician order entry, or CPOE. With this system in place, physicians will enter orders for their patients on a computer, which contains information such as the patients' clinical conditions, allergies and key lab values. The computer will then evaluate the safety of the orders and send them to the pharmacy.
According to research, hospitals that implement CPOE can reduce their errors by up to 85 percent.
Hospitals can also reduce medical errors by implementing procedures and policies that can improve the delivery and efficiency of healthcare services.
They should make sure that all their employees have a clear understanding of the procedures and policies, as well as their roles and responsibilities. Some hospitals have online dashboards that display their readmission, infection, and surgical complication and error rates to the public.
To avoid turning potential customers away, they have to make an extra effort to keep their error rates low. Surgical errors can have drastic consequences, and hospitals can minimize such errors by introducing surgical checklists and instructing their surgeons to refer to them every time they perform a surgery.
Most medical errors can be prevented, and hospitals can save many lives by making a greater commitment to reduce their errors.
About the Author
John McMalcolm is a freelance writer who writes on a wide range of subjects, from hospital management to office furniture.