Two newspapers recently reported on medical
errors. Summaries appear below.Drug errors: Instances in which patients are injured after receiving the wrong medication or dosage from a hospital have doubled in the last 10 years, and at least 1.5 million U.S. residents are involved in such incidents each year, the Los Angeles Times reports. Reports to FDA on serious injuries resulting from hospital drug
errors have increased from about 35,000 in 1998 to about 90,000 in 2005, according to a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Deaths from medication errors tripled during that time period, with 5,000 in 1998 and 15,000 in 2005. The errors can occur when pharmacists stock drugs
improperly, nurses neglect to double-check treatments or physicians write the medication order illegibly. One solution is to use a system in which the drugs are labeled with a bar code that is swiped and run through a computer system that checks the dosage and medication. FDA requires drug manufacturers to place bar codes on the packaging of medications, and most do so, according to Allen Vaida, executive vice president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices. Hospital administrators and other health
care officials have been discussing the issue of drug errors and solutions to the problem for the last few years. Albert Wu, a professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins University, said, "Errors are disturbingly common," adding, "The health care system has to take a step back and invest more in research and improving patient safety. Until it does, these kinds of incidents will keep happening" (Lin/Watanabe, Los Angeles Times, 11/22).
Medical chart errors: Physicians using the networking Web site Sermo this summer discussed accuracy of medical charts, the AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Postings from doctors revealed not only that these errors were common but also that some doctors noted errors in their own medical charts as patients. Errors can appear on charts through several ways, including time-crunched doctors taking shortcuts or not listening carefully to patients, physicians relying on memory to update charts, charts being filled out illegibly or coding problems causing errors. These errors can lead to inaccurate diagnosis or drug errors that could be serious, according to the AP/Post-Dispatch. Gerald Kominski, associate director of the University of California-Los Angeles` Center for Health Policy Research, said, "There is an implicit trust," adding, "Most of us want to believe our doctors are hearing what we`re saying and are accurately reporting that in our medical history" (Chang, AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 11/22). Reprinted with kind permission from http://www.kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation© 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.