Factors that Cause Medical Errors

Casualties of medical errors could be people affected by wrong diagnosis and treatment owing to a lack of expertise on the part of physicians or people victimized by sheer human error and negligence. The IOM provided a working definition of medical errors as “an adverse event that could be prevented given the current state of medical knowledge.

” This definition has been subsequently elaborated by QuIC (Quality Interagency Coordination) task force, a commission appointed by President Bill Clinton to respond to the IOM report: Medical errors are “the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended or the use of a wrong plan to achieve an aim. ” The first part of the definition points to negligence, and the second part can imply either negligence or deficiency of knowledge and skills. Ultimately, medical errors happen because of human error and human folly.

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There may be no solution to human folly, but if we try to analyze the causes, that is to say, identify and classify the factors that lead to gross medical errors, we would be in a better position to find ways to mitigate the incidence of medical errors. In the early 2000s, the National Patient Safety Foundation conducted an extensive survey in order to get a clearer picture of the medical errors scene. Of the hundreds of people surveyed from out of general segments of the population, 42 percent affirmed that they had been in one way or other affected by a medical error.

This is a huge number, almost half of the population. Of these people, 33 percent said they were personal victims, and the remaining were affected indirectly either through a friend or relative. One-third of these medical errors resulted in deaths or permanent negative effect on the patient. The following is the breakdown of the various causes behind the incidence of medical errors, as found out by the survey. • Misdiagnosis (40%) • Medication error (28%) • Medical procedure error (22%)

• Administrative error (4%) • Communication error (2%) • Incorrect laboratory results (2%) • Equipment malfunction (1%) • Other error (7%) Carelessness / negligence, untrained staff / incompetence, failure of communication, misdiagnosis due to lack of proper knowledge of patient’s background, as in the emergency ward, fatigue and overworked staff, misread prescriptions or pharmacy error, and so on are the various factors that are responsible for human error in the hospital setting.

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