You go to the hospital in Columbus with an infection and are admitted to
the intensive care unit. While you are there, you see several doctors
and nurses, many of whom give you medicine. You are hooked up to an IV
drip. After a while, you start to feel worse. More doctors come and check
you. They give you more medicine. Finally, you are released from the hospital
after making a full recovery. Throughout the whole ordeal, you never once
were told that you were a victim of a medication error.
While this story ended with the Columbus patient leaving the hospital without
a problem after a minor medication error, not all errors are so benign.
In a recent study, researchers found approximately 1,120 serious medication
errors in the ICU in a survey of 537 hospitals. Of those 1,120 medication
errors, 18 resulted in death. While some may argue that these are relatively
small numbers, this is only a sampling of the population and the actual
numbers are likely much higher. Moreover, the more shocking issue is that
many errors are never reported to patients or their families.
The study found that patients and families were only ever told about medication
errors 2 percent of the time they occurred. Hospitals and health care
has made tremendous strides in patient care and many talk about how transparent
they are with patients, but this number calls into question just how much
hospitals are telling their patients. If a patient is the victim of medical
malpractice, even if he or she is not injured by the malpractice, he or
she should be told about it.
Researchers found that when a hospital won’t blame or punish health
care workers for reporting mistakes, there was a higher percentage of
errors reported, but it is unclear if those were errors reported to national
databases or patients themselves.