Research has shown that medical errors may result most frequently from system errors. One out of 25 patients in hospitals are injured due to medical errors, and an estimated 48,000 to 98,000 patients die from these errors a year. Even if you consider the lower estimate of 48,000 errors a year, it is still higher than the annual mortality from motor vehicle accidents (43,458), breast cancer (42,297), or even AIDS (16,516), thus making medical errors the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. These errors, besides causing death, have also cost the economy from $17 to $29 billion each year and cost more that $5 million a year in large teaching hospitals, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
For Patients at Risk, Medical errors may result in the following:
- A patient being given the wrong medicine
- A clinician misreading the results of a test
- An elderly person that shows up to an emergency room with ambiguous systems, such as: shortness of breath, abdominal pain and dizziness, whose heat attack is not diagnosed by the medical staff
How Errors Occur:
- Medication Errors:
These are preventable mistakes in the prescribing and delivering of medications to a patient, these errors include: prescribing two or more drugs whose interaction is known to produce side effects or prescribing a drug to which the patient is allergic to.
- Surgical Errors
- Diagnostic Inaccuracies:
This leads to ineffective treatment and/or unnecessary testing, which is costly and can be invasive to the patient.
- System Failures:
This is the way health care is delivered and the way that resources are provided to the delivery system.
Medical Mistakes are also made by distracted nurses. It is believed that if medical facilities had more nursing staff that could focus their attention on fewer tasks at a time that medical mistakes would decrease, patient safety increase and it would reduce the risk of medical malpractice. When nurses are interrupted, it increases the chance of a procedural failure by 12.1%, and the chances of a clinical error by 12.7%, as indicated by the Archives of Internal Medicine study published in Australia in 2008.