What are common causes of medical error?

| Jan 11, 2021 | Medical Malpractice |

The term medical error exists as an umbrella that covers many scenarios. But why are medical errors so common? 

What are the top causes behind these tragic and often preventable issues? 

Research reveals high rates of error

Johns Hopkins Medicine released a study examining the impact of medical error on the health care industry. Medical error surpassed other leading causes of death. It is the third highest cause of fatality in the U.S. It now outranks Alzheimer’s, diabetes and stroke. Statistics show that 1 in 7 Medicare patients in hospital settings fall victim to medical error. 

Experts note causes of individual error

As for the high rate of error, experts look at several factors. First is the inadequate flow of information. Communication is key, especially when transferring patients. When communication fails, patients may get incorrect test results or medication. Doctors may not have the information they need to make the best decisions, too. 

Next up is human error. This includes failure to meet standards of care or stick to policies. It can also include poor specimen labeling and documentation. Contributing factors that increase issues in this category include high stress and lack of sleep. 

State of the medical industry leads to error

Related, workflow and staffing patterns often contribute to error. Inadequate staffing puts people in a position where they end up overtaxed, overworked and exhausted. Finally, inadequate policies can lead to an increase in mistakes due to lax regulation. In many cases, more than one of these issues is at work in a medical setting. 

Until the industry addresses the systemic and individual problems, the rate of errors is not likely to decrease. 

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