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Errors in Treatment Rarely Admitted to Patients

Update Date: Jan 15, 2013 03:24 AM EST
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In case a doctor has made an error while treating a patient, the last person to know about it will be the patient and his/her family members. The recent study, conducted by The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, has revealed this shocking result.

Out of a record of 840,000 cases, 56,000 or 6.6 percent of the errors occurred in ICUs. The other 784,000 cases were in the different areas of the hospital apart from the ICU. The study was based on 840,000 voluntarily reported medication errors spanning from 537 hospitals in the U.S. between the years 1999 to 2005.

"For the most part, our findings were in keeping with what the existing literature tells us about the where and how of medication errors in a hospital. The most surprising finding was what we do about them, at least in the immediate time around when they occur," Dr. Asad Latif, from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and the study's lead author, wrote in an email to Reuters Health.

It was found that on approximately half of the occasions, there was a complete lack of action; and only in one-third of the cases, the staff making the mistake was informed about the error that had been committed.

"And the patient and/or their family is immediately informed when an error occurs barely two percent of the time, despite literature supporting full disclosure and their desire to be promptly informed," Dr. Latif added.

In the database, it was also found that out of the 110 deaths that might have occurred due to errors, 18 were in the ICU and the other 92 were not in ICUs. The most common mistake was that of not giving the medicine. Other graver errors were those concerning the IV line or in ensuring the right amount of medicine was administered.

Reassuringly enough, it was found that 98 percent of errors were not fatal and the fatal ones commonly occurred in ICUs, as the patients there are in critical condition.

These findings were reported in Critical Care Medicine.

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