Every year, over 250,000 patients in the country die due to errors in medical treatment. This statistic makes medical errors the country’s third-leading cause of death, following heart disease and cancer.
One of the staple medical mistakes is making an error in patient medication. Patients can be given the wrong medication, wrong dose, or wrong information on their prescribed medical recovery.
Below, we look into the problem of medical error, dive further into medication mistakes and discuss ways that facilities and patients can both contribute to overcoming the huge deficit in the healthcare industry.
Cause of Medical Error
What causes a medication error?
Any of the following factors can cause a medical error:
- Error in judgment
- Error in care
- Poorly trained/skilled staff
- Preventable symptom or adverse effect
- System defect
- Poor communication
While human error is accountable for mistakes at any job in our economy, many medical errors caused by humans could be prevented through better education, preparation, note-taking, analysis, or follow-up.
Adverse Drug Events
When certain detrimental facility conditions are present, the likelihood of human error can go up. For example, if a hospital is short-staffed and an inadequately trained employee is tasked to administer an IV, the IV could be the wrong dose, wrong IV, or given improperly to the point of adverse reaction or fatality.
Examining Medical Errors
Upon circumstance review, it is easy to point to the inexperienced staff member as the scapegoat.
If the analysis continues, it is evident that the causes of error are greater than that single employee’s mistake and begs several questions:
- Why was the facility not properly staffed?
- Why was the employee not educated for proper treatment?
- Why was there not a surveillance system in place to render it more difficult for the employee to make this type of error?
The solutions to this particular and adverse hypothetical event include:
- Adequate training required for new hires
- Ongoing training and education for current employees
- Improving staffing, including second and third backup plans for short-staffed situations
- Automated error-correcting systems and practices
Reducing Medical Error
How can hospitals, clinics, and medical facilities improve patient safety?
The looming likelihood of human error involved in patient medication is too large to ignore.
Some institutions are implementing precautionary measures, including the following:
- Double-checking electronic records
- Fail-safe devices
- Ongoing analysis of errors
- Ongoing projection of potential errors and respective preventative systems
- Electronic record keeping
- Limiting post-surgery and post-treatment prescriptions to opioids and other addicting drugs.
Another large error in patient care and proper medication prescription is communication between physician and patient. If physicians do not blatantly spell out what a patient can or cannot participate in given the patient’s current conditions, the patient has no chance to successfully guide him or herself through recovery.
To ensure patient safety, physicians need to thoroughly explain the medical conditions, context, consequences and provide precise instructions for recovering now, in the foreseeable future, and in a long-term projection.
While the medical industry works to improve conditions that lead to medical errors, patients have an opportunity to take the reigns of their own health and safety.
Here are a few ways for patients to get involved in the accuracy and security of their healthcare:
- Actively use patient healthcare apps to monitor ongoing health, medical history, and recovery processes
- Demand quality, cost-effective care during treatment
- Seek a second opinion before committing to a treatment plan or diagnosis
- Bring a partner or friend to appointments for objective listening and remembering
- Ask as many questions as possible to best understand the specifics and the larger context of the situation, condition or treatment protocol