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New study indicates that medication errors are often kept secret

Posted by Smiley & Smiley on Jan 31, 2013 6:54:08 PM

According to a recent study conducted by experts at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, a troubling trend is defining patient care at the majority of the nation's hospitals. The study's authors have concluded that medication errors are rarely reported to patients or their families, especially if patients are in critical condition. These errors are unlikely to be shared with patients even if the errors did not ultimately do them harm.

One of the study's authors noted that "The most surprising finding was what we do about (medication errors), at least in the immediate time around when they occur." Specifically, over 50 percent of the time, no actions whatsoever are taken in the aftermath of an error. No patient reporting, internal reporting, internal investigations or disciplinary actions are taken at all. In fact, evidence suggests that only a third of healthcare providers are informed that they made mistakes when those mistakes come to light.

Of particular concern is the dramatically low rate at which patients and their families are informed about medication errors. According to this latest study, this information is only passed along approximately two percent of the time. Given the importance of sharing this information with patients and with fellow staff, this statistic is both unacceptable and difficult to comprehend.

It is worth noting that researchers based their conclusions off of a database containing 840,000 medication errors that were reported (eventually) voluntarily. As a result, the percentage of errors shared freely with patients and their families could be much lower than two percent in actuality.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Patients rarely told about medication errors," Andrew M. Seaman, Jan. 11, 2013

Topics: Medical Malpractice, medical-negligence, medication-errors

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