Everyone wants to trust that hospitals and health care providers will deliver safe and effective treatments and services. But things can and do go wrong in any hospital, and at some hospitals, medical errors occur more often than at others. Even common tasks can go wrong in the hospital. And hospitals that make terrible mistakes are not necessarily shut down or penalized.
Among the problems that commonly occur at hospitals are delays in responding to your care, suboptimal care, hospital-acquired infections, postoperative complications, medication reactions, adverse drug events, and improper blood transfusions.
You can also become a victim of misdiagnosis, surgical injuries and wrong-site surgery, restraint-related injuries or death, falls, burns, pressure ulcers, and mistaken identity errors. Here’s some questions to ponder:
What are the chances of getting an infection there?
Health acquired infections are infections people get while they are receiving treatment at a hospital for another condition. Here are the facts:
1. At any given time, about 1 in 25 hospital patients have an infection related to hospital care.
2. Nearly 650,000 patients get one of these infections every year.
3. These hospital infections can be caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, or other, less common pathogens.
4. These infections lead to the loss of tens of thousands of lives and cost the US health care system billions of dollars each year.
Some of the factors that raise the risk of infections are catheters (bloodstream, endotracheal, and urinary); surgery; injections; hospitals that aren’t properly cleaned and disinfected; communicable diseases passing between patients and healthcare workers; overuse or improper use of antibiotics.
Do they have lots of medication errors?
An adverse drug event is when someone is harmed by a medicine. Experts say that about half of these (46%) are preventable. Here are the facts:
1. Adverse drug events cause approximately 1.3 million emergency department visits each year.
2. About 350,000 patients each year need to be hospitalized for further treatment after emergency visits for adverse drug events.
3. Medication-related reactions account for up to 106,000 deaths in the United States annually.
4. In a review from 2007, adverse drug reactions were found to occur in 6.1% of all hospitalizations.
On average, a hospital patient is subject to at least one medication error per day - a wrong drug, at the wrong time, or by the wrong method (such as giving a drug by needle instead of by pill).
How much are their deaths from medical mistakes?
Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. Here are the facts:
1. More than 250,000 people in the US die every year from medical mistakes. Other reports claim the numbers to be as high as 440,000.
2. Flaws contributing to preventable hospital deaths include delays in responding to deteriorating patients, suboptimal critical care, hospital-acquired infections, postoperative complications, and medication reactions.
High medical error rates with serious consequences are most likely to occur in intensive care units, operating rooms, and emergency departments. Medical errors are also associated with extremes of age, new procedures, urgency, and the severity of the medical condition being treated.