October 29th, 2015|
About half of all surgeries involve a medication error or unintended drug side effect, according to a study done at Massachusetts General Hospital, one of the world’s most prestigious medical centers. More than one third of the errors caused injury to the patient. The researchers observed 277 procedures performed at Mass General and found there “is substantial potential for medication-related harm and a number of opportunities to improve safety.” Since 1999, when the Institute of Medicine identified medical errors as being a leading cause of death, killing at least 44,000 people per year, hospitals have adopted various methods to improve patient safety. These include the use of checklists, making notations at the surgical site, and electronic prescribing systems that alert doctors of potential medication errors. But surgical medications do not have the same safeguards that other medication orders do. Typically pharmacists and nurses double-check medications before administration. Operating rooms, where things happen rapidly, do not have such safeguards. Many errors had to do with improperly labeling drugs when they are drawn into a syringe. Several medications are usually given during an operation, from anesthesia to antibiotics, and most drugs look like clear liquid with drug names varying only slightly. The study found that some kind of error was made in about one out of every 20 drug administrations. Procedures lasting more than six hours were more likely to involve an error than shorter procedures. The bottom line is that the medical profession is being somewhat more transparent in identifying and trying to eliminate mistakes and improve patient safety.