Deadly medical errors still common in U.S. hospitals

Monday, February 21, 2011 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: medical errors, hospitals, health news

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(NaturalNews) In spite of a decade of efforts to improve patient safety, dangerous medical errors are still common in U.S. hospitals, according to a study conducted by researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and published in the "New England Journal of Medicine."

"Hospitals are places where medical errors are rampant; people are given the wrong drugs at the wrong doses, or undergo the wrong medical procedures with horrifying frequency," writes Mike Adams in his book "Spam Filters for Your Brain."

"Sometimes people even have the wrong limbs operated on or amputated, waking up wondering, 'Where is my good arm?' "

The researchers examined admission records from 2,300 patients at 10 hospitals across North Carolina in 2007. The hospitals were randomly selected. The researchers found 588 incidents in which patients were harmed due to medical procedures or medications, representing no change in the rate of medical errors since 2002. Fully two-thirds of all errors were considered preventable.

"These harms are still very common, and there's no evidence that they're improving," lead researcher Christopher Landrigan said.

According to the U.S. Office of the Inspector General, medical complications are responsible for 180,000 patient deaths and cost Medicare as much as $4.4 billion every year.

"The problem is that the methods that have been best proven to improve care have not been implemented across the nation," Landrigan said.

Among methods proven successful, Landrigan cited computerized patient records, computerized prescription orders, limits on how long a doctor or nurse's shift can be, and the use of checklists for medical procedures.

In Michigan hospitals using a Johns Hopkins University checklist designed to reduce hospital blood infections, Landrigan noted the rate of such infections has fallen to nearly zero in just three years.

Lucian Leape, a Harvard University health policy analyst, said that hospitals need to undergo a "cultural shift."

"In order to change the way we do things, we have to work effectively as teams, and to become a good team is difficult in healthcare because that's not how it's set up, that's not how we train our doctors," Leape said.
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