Medical error

From ArticleWorld

A medical error is not an uncommon event in medicine and is the result of a medical provider, such as a nurse or doctor, making an error of some kind in the care of a sick patient. A medical error can be one of omission or the withholding of intended treatment, the neglecting of a therapeutic measure or the giving of some form of treatment that harms the patient. In the US, up to 98,000 unnecessary deaths and up to a million additional injuries per year happen as a result of medical error.


A medical error can be as simple as misdiagnosing the patient in the first place and treating the patient based on the wrong diagnosis. Because many hospitals do not have electronic medical records nor are there pharmacists on site to check for medication errors, the wrong medication in the wrong patient or the wrong dose at the wrong time or by the wrong route can happen.

The orders for medications can be scribbled by a practitioner who has written the right drug and the right dose but some aspect of their writing is misinterpreted by the nurse giving the medication. Certain medications are often double-checked with more than one nurse to make sure that the dose is readable and the proper dose was calculated and drawn into the syringe correctly.

Sometimes an error can happen because two or more drugs are given together that interact unfavorably with one another. Some interactions can be quite obscure and may only be discovered by an astute pharmacist or by a computerized medical record that can identify when two medications interact poorly with one another.

In surgery, the wrong site can be operated on, such as amputating the wrong limb or doing surgery on a patient that was intended for another patient.

Error reduction

Errors in a given facility can be reduced by giving patients an informed consent policy that allows them to read and sign their approval for procedures after reading about the risks and benefits of the procedure. A second opinion can be gotten by the patient with another healthcare provider or more than one provider can work together to make sure that neither makes an error. The institution of a voluntary error policy without retribution will better point to areas of concern. In the event of an error, review of the case by qualified specialist practitioners is often done with emphasis on error prevention.

Other approaches, such as the institution of standardized doses and color-coding standards in fields such as anesthesiology, have been successful in reducing errors made in the operating room. Many hospitals also have a Total Quality Management (TQM) team that addresses trends in errors and establishes policies to reduce further problems.