“Studies like this give us the opportunity to find out how we are actually doing,” says Asad Latif, “compared to how we think we are doing.”

What Latif, a doctor from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and lead author of a study that could potentially be deemed a seminal work for its examination of hospitals’ medication errors, and fellow researchers are finding out is this: There is a prominent disconnect between how the medical industry perceives its performance and how that performance actually grades out.

And nowhere is that more true than in the realm of medication, across a broad area of concerns. Those concerns include the sheer amount of errors being committed, where those errors have the most serious consequence, and how facilities own up to and readily disclose mistakes so that future acts of medical malpractice and hospital negligence can be avoided.

Latif and his team examined a huge database of voluntarily reported mistakes (more than 800,000) from over 500 hospitals across the country over a recent six-year period.

Their central findings include these:

  • Although only about 6.6 percent of such errors occurred in ICUs, those mistakes posed about double the risk for patient harm as opposed to errors committed in other areas of hospitals.
  • Drug errors are promptly reported to patients and/or their families only about two percent of the time.
  • When a hospital staff member is known to have made a mistake, he or she is immediately told of such error in only about one third of all cases.
  •  In the hospitals studied, remedial action following a medication error was undertaken in less than half of all instances.

Such findings ensue during a time when the medical industry is strongly focused on reducing in-house errors of all types. Latif notes that “the human factor” is an always present and precipitating factor in the occurrence of medical error.

Aside from the broad-based ethical and humanitarian reasons that motivate medical professionals to reduce preventable medical error, Latif and his team point out another motivation, namely this: Medication mistakes can add about $3 million in annual costs at a single facility.

Source: Yahoo! News, “Patients rarely told about medication errors,” Andrew M. Seaman, Jan. 11, 2013