Sample Research papers on Medical Errors in Our Delivery System

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Medical errors are ranked eighth among the causes of the deaths witnessed in US. Every day, approximately 250 people are reported to die out of the medical errors that occur in the health care sector. Moreover, an approximated 44,000-98,000 people in the US are reported to die annually following the medical errors (Jenicek, 2010). Medical errors occur when a certain aspect planned to be part of the medical care fails to work out. A medical error is thus said to be the health care’s adverse effect that is preventable regardless of whether it is seen as evident or even harmful to a patient. These errors can happen in many areas of health-care system including the hospitals, doctor’s offices, clinics, pharmacies, nursing homes, surgery centers in the outpatient department as well as in the patients’ homes.
    The medical errors may involve various aspects like medicines, diagnosis, equipment, and surgery or laboratory reports (Naylor, 2010). For instance, an incomplete or inaccurate diagnosis or the treatment of any disease, syndrome, injury, or infection may constitute a medical error. Therefore, some of the medical errors could include misdiagnosis, wrong drug given to a patient, wrong-site surgical operations, retaining instruments used in surgery at the operation site as well as improper keeping of records.
    The various researches done on the area of medical errors concur that it is difficult to measure the frequency of the medical errors in the systems of health care in the US. This is because some errors occur out of negligence and are unnoticed. It is estimated that 1% of the hospital admissions always have a medical error because of negligence (Sultz, 2010). Actually, the only mistakes that are identified are the ones, which lead to the measurable and clear adverse events that occur following the medical errors. This implies that the medical errors are very rampant in the US health systems of delivering care but many errors are not identified and hence are not rectified.
    In a very recent study, researchers analyzed 37 million records of patients in the US hospitals and applied mortality as well as the economic impact-models that were developed and put forward by Dr.Chunliu in 2003 and later published in the medical association journal of America (Association, 2009). The researchers found out that almost 100% of the patients whose deaths occurred following medical errors would have absolutely survived if the optimal and best healthcare were provided to these patients.
    The medical errors can occur even during performance of the routine tasks like when a patient in a hospital who is strictly restricted from taking diets having salt is by a mistake served with the high-salt meal. Majority of these medical errors in the US are because of various problems that are created by the complex system of health care that exist in the US currently (Sultz, 2010). Nevertheless, medical errors occur when there is a problem with communication between the doctor and the patient.
    In a study that has been supported by AHRQ (Agency-for-Healthcare-Research-and-Quality), doctors have been found not to do enough when it comes to helping the patients to make personal informed decisions (Nguyen, 2008). In turn, uninformed and uninvolved patients may not accept the certain treatment chosen by the doctor and may decline to do all that the doctor advises them in order for the prescribed treatment options to work.
    If any healthcare provider chooses a method of giving the healthcare, which is inappropriate or chooses a right method but executes this method incorrectly, this will also be termed as a medical error. Therefore, the definitions of medical errors are broad since medical errors could range from minor errors to the major types of errors and the causality is most often than not, poorly determined.
    Some of the  deaths that have been induced by these medical errors are secondary to lack of the prevention of medication errors due to the increase in the costs needed to prevent various medication errors that have sprung up to approximately $2 billion annually (Naylor, 2010). Medication errors alone kill around 7,000 US citizens every year despite the fact that they can be prevented with the stipulated policies.
    Research highlights that a good percentage of the medical errors could be associated with the inexperienced nurses, doctors, and physicians. Moreover, these errors could arise due to incompetence of the medical personnel in performing new healthcare procedures that could be very complex and urgent requiring fresh brains of young providers of health care rather than the elderly clinicians (Nguyen, 2008). Furthermore, poor communication either between patient and the doctor or among the collaborative medical team is also a significant source of medical errors. Coupled with this issue, is the aspect of unclear authority lines of the physicians, nurses as well as other providers of health care. Anything can go wrong if effective communication is not passed across these teams hence leading to errors in the transmission of the medical messages.
    Improper documentation as well as illegible handwriting in the documented information can also be a form a medical error. It is said that if something has not been documented, then there is no evidence that it has been done and thus wrongly documented information might evidence the wrong healthcare activities or mislead the respective healthcare team involved in a patients care. Currently, the US is faced with inadequate ratios of nurse-to-patient due to the shortage of the nurses, a factor that leads to overworking of the few available nurses predisposing them to committing medical errors.
    In addition, if some medications normally located in the same area in the hospital ward were by a mistake named/labeled similarly, then a nurse administering the medication to the patient would confuse and administer the wrong type of medication. It is also worth noting that the patients’ actions could as well cause medical errors (Naylor, 2010). For instance, if a patient who was on mandatory artificial oxygenation slides and fall from the bed in absence of a medical practitioner, the nasal prongs could get disconnected from the nose leading to death if no provider of health care is around to assist the patient.
    Approximately 80 % of the medical errors occurring in the US complex systems of healthcare can be attributed to human error. However, the vast numbers of the medical errors are secondarily a result of faulty systems as well as processes that are faulty coupled with poor practices of the care providers and incompetent practitioners of health care. The health care in the US has become complex owing to the upcoming complicated technologies and many new drugs in the market some of which are so powerful and others that react badly to the patients.
    In addition, the prolonged patient stays in the hospitals especially in the intensive care unit can also be a source of medical errors. It might not be easy to prevent such patients from getting all nossocomial infections as they are admitted in the hospital beds. This will mean a medical error of cross infection of a different patient occurring when unexpected. All these complexity have played a major part in causing these medical errors.
    The design of the systems of health care in the US, have thus additionally contributed to some medical errors in one way or the other. The Medicine Institute in the US highlights that medical errors are not because of bad healthcare personnel but are because of good people working in systems of healthcare that are bad and unsafe (Jenicek, 2010). These systems portray poor communication, reporting systems that are disconnected in within the hospital leading to fragmented systems with poor coordination. Moreover, many US hospitals have over relied on these inefficient automated systems in preventing errors hence worsening the situation. There is also a problem of infrastructure failure whereby the sophisticated medical equipment lack skilled operators.
    Medical errors also result from variations in the competency, training and education levels among the providers of healthcare. Some of these medical practitioners never even recognize the seriousness and prevalence of the medical errors and especially the new medical staffs in teaching hospitals (Thomas, 2006). Moreover, these personnel, especially the intern doctors and other nurses are faced with the problem of ergonomics and human factors like sleep deprivation while trying to maximize their income, a factor that predisposes them to making medical errors.
    Very many solutions have been proposed and developed to solve these medical errors and reduce their occurrence in the health sector. Firstly, in order to solve the errors occurring regarding the medicines, the patients have been advised on the need to be active participants while being given healthcare by the medical personnel. The patients are supposed to ensure that all the doctors who attend to them are aware of everything they have been or are taking to include over-the-counter drugs, herbs, and dietary supplements like vitamins. In this way, the doctor is able to decide on what best to prescribe or advise on without errors.
     Moreover, the patient should tell the doctor about his past medication allergies in order to prevent some drug induced adverse reactions. Every patient should also be able to read the doctor’s prescription or if not clear seek interpretation of the unclear part. The patient is also supposed to ascertain from the hospital pharmacy that the medication he is issued with was what the physician prescribed. Any questions about directions labeled on the medicine and the side effects of the prescribed medications should be sought.
    Concerning the hospital stays for those patients admitted for treatment or awaiting operation, the patient should choose the hospital in which the number of various other patients having a similar condition or undergoing a similar surgery is high in order to get better results. The providers of health care should also be clean and the patient should be explained to, on how to take his medications after discharge from a hospital (Young & Koopsen, 2009). Moreover, it is necessary to ensure that the surgeon and your doctor have agreed on what needs to be done and are clear about it. The surgeries that are done on wrong sites are however not so rampant in the US because some measures have been strictly followed to prevent this act. For instance, the orthopaedic surgeons in American academy have come up with a protocol, which dictates that a surgeon should sign his initials on the site of operation before commencing the surgery.
    Many policies have also been put into place to discipline the people who commit deliberate mistakes while delivering health care. The medical personnel are supposed to adhere to certain ethics and be ready to ever-serve the patients doing no harm but only with a mind of helping the patient (Asped, 2009). If these professional ethics are adhered to, then the increased rate of the medical errors is bound to decrease to minimal levels or trickle down to zero.
    While looking at all the above solutions, I believe the biggest responsibility as far as reducing the medical errors is concerned, lies with the patient. This is because the patient is the central core of the health care and is always aware of anything that might go wrong in the provision of the care. If patients know their role when it comes to the management of a certain disease, then they will work forward towards getting the best care.
     Sadly, the providers of health care and in this respect the nurses and the doctors are at times never aware of a medical error either due to the ignorance or due to immense workload secondary to the recent shortages in the medical workforce in the US. Therefore, we cannot sit and wait for the healthcare personnel to streamline our healthcare. Instead, every patient should strive to know or be made to know the importance of participating in the personal health care be it in the hospital, in the clinics or at homes.
    Apparently, there exist problems with the systems that are used to manage the healthcare of the patients in the hospitals. With this information in mind, the patients should strictly ascertain that all that has taken place since the commencement of their healthcare in a hospital until discharge is the right thing. As it stands, not all medical professionals have the sufficient experience needed or knowledge to perform some of the healthcare activities assigned to them (Young & Koopsen, 2009). This rings an alarm to the patients to always-make an effort of choosing the right personal doctor, who can easily guide them while seeking more expertise health care that for instance involves a specialized type of surgery, which might not be performed, by the personal doctor.
    However, for some of the patients not having a personal doctor, there is need to consult and read more on the medical condition they have been diagnosed with, from the hospital. This can be read from books as well as the internet so that each patient knows what care to expect and all about the medications he is supposed to receive (Docteur, 2010). We cannot always rely on the providers of healthcare to report a medical error because not all of them are trustworthy and genuine enough to report a personal error. Therefore, if all the providers of healthcare were to be empathetic with the patient by considering the negative effects medical errors have on many patients, then the death rates resulting from medical errors could become outdated.
    However, the implementation of this measure would require an implementation plan and this would mean launching health education seminars and campaigns aimed at educating the public on what quality health care entails. This way, the patients will be able to correct any wrongly done medical service and report it instantly for the correct rectifying measures to be taken.
    Even though, the medical personnel need to put the interests of the patients at heart and respect their professional standards in order to ensure that quality error free care is provided to the patients. They should strictly adhere to the laid down policies, regulations and rules and embrace the responsibility and the accompanying accountability in their job so that the patients can benefit at large (Asped, 2009). The US government should also help in ensuring that the medical professionals, who commit deliberate medical errors that cause deaths, are corrected accordingly since this will ensure accountability among the medical team. An electronic system of recording the reported medical errors by the patients or the medical personnel should also be developed to keep a record of such events.
    Therefore, it is paramount to understand that the patient plays a major role in his care and determines the quality of care he receives. If the doctors and the nurses are pushed by the patients to deliver the best care in terms of being corrected, they will definitely deliver the required health services. This knowledge on the patient’s role would even empower all the health care seekers with the right ways of seeking compensation even in a court of law or in their desired institutions if a medical error has caused detrimental harm to the patient or led to death
Asped, P. (2009). Preventing medication errors. New Jersey: National Academies Press.
Association, A. M. (2009). Journal of the American Medical Association. Illinois: American Medical Association.
Docteur, E. (2010). Towards high-performing health systems. New York: OECD Publishing.
Jenicek, M. (2010). Medical Error and Harm: Understanding, Prevention, and Control. Texas: Taylor & Francis.
Naylor, R. (2010). Medication errors: lessons for education and healthcare. North Carolina: Springer.
Nguyen, A. (2008). Learning from medical errors: clinical problems. Philadelphia: Radcliffe Publishing.
Sultz, H. (2010). Health Care USA: Understanding Its Organization and Delivery. Washington Dc: Jones & Barlett Learning.
Thomas, B. (2006). Medical Errors: Congressional Hearing. New York: DIANE Publishing Company.
Young, C., & Koopsen, C. (2009). Medication Errors Guidebook . New York: University of Health Care.