Are Hospitals Protecting Patients From Serious Medical Errors?

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By its own recent admission, the healthcare industry has made some strides in protecting patients from serious and preventable medical errors.  But not enough.

Sage Growth Partners, a consulting company to the healthcare industry, surveyed 100 hospital administrators and executives of healthcare systems in February of this year, just prior to the country’s COVID-19 pandemic breakout.  The findings recently were published in a white paper titled “Hospital Patient Safety Report 2020.”

The researchers set out to identify what are today’s biggest challenges to patient safety and how well providers and healthcare leaders are meeting them – using key insiders’ own standards.

1,000 Hospital Patients Die Each Day from a Preventable Error

The conclusion?  Hospitals are making an effort to guard against serious medical mistakes that harm patients.  And while some progress has been made, there is still much work to be done.

In fact, in the report’s introduction the authors note that 1,000 people die each day from preventable errors made in hospitals.

Included in the study were hospital CEOs, physicians in management roles like chief medical officer, as well as nursing leaders and pharmacy heads.  The hospitals ranged in size from small facilities with 50 beds to some of the country’s largest – those with at least 1,000 beds.

The certainty these healthcare leaders had in their hospitals for protecting their patients was arguably lacking.

When asked about their hospitals’ performance last year for practicing safely, only 58% were “satisfied,” while”

  • 18% were “moderately dissatisfied”
  • 3% were “very dissatisfied”

And when asked how much confidence they had in the safety of U.S. hospitals compared to the general public, 57% of the respondents felt they were less confident or just as confident as a typical patient.

The researchers found that most everyone in the healthcare delivery system agree on what should be done to prevent serious medical errors in hospitals.  But they also concur that many times these safeguards aren’t implemented.

For example, 95% of those surveyed said that clinical surveillance – using technology to collect and analyze data to alert providers to warning signs – “improves safety.”  Yet only 29% of these same medical professionals said they actually use it.

Even more, at 98%, said they believe safety event reporting in hospitals is crucial in preventing medical mistakes.  This reporting documents errors in medical care so that doctors and hospital executives take steps to prevent them from occurring again.

While it was almost unanimous that safety event reporting is a key, only 53% of those in the survey currently use this tool in their hospitals.

Biggest Patient Safety Problems in Hospitals and What Causes Them

The survey asked doctors and hospital administrators what are the leading patient safety problems in today’s hospitals.  The top answers in order were:

  • Medication errors – 28%  of responses
  • Hospital acquired infections – 26%
  • Not reporting patient safety events in a timely manner – 18%
  • Errors with antibiotic use – 12%
  • Patient falls – 11%
  • Opioid prescription errors and abuse – 3%

And those surveyed pinpointed these internal issues as the leading causes of the medical errors:

  • Communication errors
  • Staffing and burnout issues
  • Lack of patient care data
  • Poor hand washing

The healthcare professionals did report some progress. Overall 11% said that medication errors increased in the past year while 49% said they stayed the same, and 54% indicated that patient deaths from sepsis were unchanged while 40% reported a decrease.

Despite those sepsis death numbers, almost half of those surveyed felt their efforts to prevent deadly infections were moderately effective or not effective.

Steps to prevent dangerous medical errors are known to hospital physicians and administrators.  It appears, however, that many also know they need make patient safety a higher priority and put into place such measures.

If you lost a loved one while they were receiving medical care and you believe a serious error was made, turn to an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to investigate on your behalf.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Articles May 21, 2020

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