Do patients always know when a hospital error has been made?

Saturday January 26, 2013

When people in New Haven go into the hospital and have to be treated for some kind of illness or condition that requires medication, they generally assume that they will be given the correct medication — and if they are not, that they will be told about it. However, a new study has found that such hospital errors might happen more often than people realize — and when they do, patients are not always told about them.

Even more alarming, the study determined that the most serious medication errors happen in intensive care units, known as ICUs — and the patients and their families there were even less likely to be told about the errors than patients in other areas of the hospital.

In fact, the study found that while about 2 percent of the errors outside the ICU resulted in harm to a patient, that figure was double inside the ICU. Experts say this is not surprising in the sense that patients in the ICU are in a more delicate condition to begin with, so they are more vulnerable when something goes wrong.

Study authors found that the most common error overall was one of omission –failing to give medication to a patient. That was not found to be the most harmful kind of mistake, though. The most dangerous mistakes were involving miscalculated dosages of medication or errors with equipment such as IV lines.

The study found that no corrective actions were taken after an error was discovered; furthermore, only about a third of the people who make the errors are told about them right away.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Patients rarely told about medication errors,” Andrew M. Seaman, Jan. 11, 2013

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