Posted on Jul 20, 2019, 6 p.m.
University of Manchester has found that 1 in 20 patients are harmed by medical mistakes, leaving tens of thousands disabled or dead, after suffering preventable medical mistakes during treatment.
Sometimes mistakes are unavoidable and can occur from lack of information, mistakes are common. However, according to this international study about half of these errors could have been stopped, about 12% of these medication mix ups and surgical mistakes were severe or even deadly, and as many as 6 out of 7 mistakes go unreported meaning these numbers could be low.
Misjudgments, human errors, and unpredictable bad reactions can never be fully account for as such will never be 100% eliminated, but the goal in medicine is to come as close as possible. However, according to this study which analyzed over 335,000 patient records, we are a long way off from that.
To err is only human, but in a hospital setting this can prove to be devastating. According to this international study over 8% of patients around the globe are hurt by medical mistakes, and half of those are preventable with 12% of them being fatal or lead to permanent disability.
Within America unintentional deaths in general are the third legal leading cause of death, experts suggest that in 2016 medical mistakes were a large portion of that, estimating that 174,902 Americans die to medical errors every year.
“It’s a reminder that 20 years into our realization about the problems with patient safety, the rate of preventable harm caused by health care continues to be unacceptably high, causing a huge burden of unnecessary patient suffering and even death,” said Dr. Albert Wu of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
“This is one of the largest studies ever conducted on the frequency and severity of patient harm,” Wu said. “And it provides evidence that these harms occur in all medical care settings. It’s a problem that needs our attention.”
Errors include a variety of causes ranging from everything unforeseeable such as bad reactions to drugs to gross surgical mistakes such as performing the wrong operation on a patient.
Patients put their trust and faith into physicians and medical care providers to do no harm, and most do just that, but the numbers are still shocking.
As recently published in the BMJ this study found that out of 337,025 patients seen between 2000-2019 the attending nurses and doctors made mistakes in 6% of the cases, that’s 20,221.5 people. 28,150 experienced harmful incidences of which 15,419 were preventable, of which 49% were mild, 36% were moderate, and 12% were considered to be severe. 49% of the harms were due to incidents relating to drugs and other therapies, 23% were due to injuries related to surgical procedures, and 16% were due to healthcare infections and problems arising from diagnosis.
University of Manchester researchers note that in their new study about half as many people claim they have suffered harm in the process of receiving medical care as those that suffer from chronic diseases in developed nations; and those numbers are probably understated.
W.H.O considers social, physiological and psychological harms attributable to medical errors to rest on the shoulders of nurses and doctors along with resulting disability and death; and although hospitals are legally obligated to report errors that occur while a patient is under their care, that doesn’t mean that standard is strictly adhered to. Doing this requires all nurses and doctors to own up to their mistakes, which can sometimes prove to be fatal. Prior research indicates that as much as 6 out of 7 medical mistakes go unreported within America alone. This means that in all likelihood the numbers in this study are low.
Based on their analysis the team estimates that around half of the infections, psychological trauma, injuries and other mistakes could have been avoided as most of the errors in the hospital setting involved a wrong medication or other therapeutic, or a surgical error. With 12% of patients dying as a result of these errors the researchers echo suggestions for strong patient safety practice and accountability.
“Our findings affirm that preventable patient harm is a serious problem across medical care settings,” they wrote.
“We need strategies in place to detect and correct the key causes of patient harm in health care. Our study finds that most harm relates to medication, and this is one core area that preventative strategies could focus on.” says Maria Panagioti.
The researchers concluded that “1 in 20 patients are exposed to preventable harm in medical care,” and suggest a strong need for better procedures to prevent obvious but life threatening mistakes such as medication mix ups, and to ensure that the attending nurses and doctors actually come clean when their mistakes hurt patients.
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