Medical Errors: Third Leading Cause of Death in U.S.
Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. after heart disease and cancer, according to research published in the British Medical Journal by Martin Makary and Michael Daniel at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD. The researchers estimate the average number of people who die in U.S. hospitals because of medical errors to be between 210,000 and 400,000 each year.
In responding to their findings, Makary stated that more “safety systems” are needed in hospitals in order to combat medical error deaths:
“Although we cannot eliminate human error, we can better measure the problem to design safer systems mitigating its frequency, visibility, and consequences.”
The Four Types of Medical Errors
The Institute of Medicine (IM) in its landmark study on human error in hospitals found that there are four primary types of medical errors:
- Diagnostic Errors — delays in diagnosis; failure to employ indicated tests; use of outmoded tests or therapy; failure to act on results of monitoring or testing
- Treatment Errors — drug errors including wrong doses, wrong methods of using a drug, wrong drugs, drug shortages, etc.; delays in treatment and responses to abnormal tests; and operational, procedural and administrative errors
- Preventive Errors — failure to take disease prevention measures during treatment; inadequate monitoring or follow-up of treatment
- Miscellaneous Errors — communication errors; equipment and other system failures
Automated Systems Cited as Critical Piece of Puzzle in Reducing Errors
Janet Corrigan, the Director of the Quality of Health Care in America Project and the lead researcher of the IM study cited drug errors as a prime example of an area where hospitals can greatly reduce their medical error averages. She said,
“The medication process provides an example where implementing better systems will yield better human performance. Medication errors now occur frequently in hospitals, yet many hospitals are not making use of known systems for improving safety, such as automated medication order entry systems, nor are they actively exploring new safety systems.”
RFID Can Help Reduce Medication Error Risks
While medication distribution errors are only a part of the medical error equation, every initiative hospitals take to reduce or eliminate risk carries the potential to save lives and increase the quality of patient care. Through technology like RFID, hospitals can better manage pharmaceutical inventory distribution ensuring that expired and recalled meds never reach patients. Hospitals can also ensure they avoid stock-outs of critical care drugs.
For example, if the right life-saving drug is not available when and where it’s expected, patient care delays can result in serious complications or even death: RFID technology enables hospitals to make sure clinicians have the right drugs at the right time.
In addition to preventing medication errors, RFID saves pharmacists and their staff a significant amount of time, allowing them to focus their energy and expertise on patient care, like counseling patients, a step the FDA recommends to further reduce the potential for medication errors.
Eliminate Human Error in Drug Management with RFID
As humans, we are all susceptible to making mistakes. Unfortunately, in the realm of healthcare, simple mistakes can be fatal.
While the high-pressure, fast-paced environment of hospitals certainly increases the conditions under which a person is more likely to make mistakes, there are advanced technologies, like RFID medication management, that can greatly reduce the risk of human error.
Recently, we conducted research that reveals how hospitals that used RFID technology to automate, validate and manage their drug inventories were able to eliminate human error completely from their drug management processes and increase patient safety.
To learn more, download our free whitepaper, The Risk of Relying on Human Perfection.