Objectives of Study
The general objective of this study is to investigate the effects of medical errors in the provision of health care.
The specific objectives are;
1. To investigate the underlying causes of medical errors in a health care facility
2. To assess the ethical implications of medical errors in the treatment of patients
3. To determine the role of Information Technology in healthcare and how it can reduce medical errors in heath care.
In the United States, medical errors are ranked fifth as the leading cause of patient’s deaths. According to IOM, medical errors cost the government $29 billion annually (Wheat, 2009). This figure shows that medical errors are a universal occurrence in the medical field in the United States. Moreover, ninety-five percent of the physicians interviewed reported having encountered a medical error in the cause of the work. In addition to causing deaths, medical errors are a source of ethical concern in the healthcare industry. Wheat (2009) points out that majority of the medical error occur as a result of methodical flaws rather than errors instigated by health care practitioners. Systematic factors such as failure to label drugs effectively, poor communication among health care providers as well as inability to follow health care policies contribute to medical errors.
Many lives are lost due to errors emanating from improper handling of patients’ and their health-related information. The main areas prone to these errors are prescription, dispensing, administration, and monitoring. A survey conducted by an Independent Healthy Survey reveals that 35,000 to 98,000 patients succumb due to medical errors (Levinson & Gallagher, 2007). Most hospitals have reported similar complaints in the recent past. Similarly, according to Levinson & Gallagher (2007) health care system as a whole are prone to medical errors. This is because the majority of the systems are fragmented and decentralized, regardless of the service they provide. Moreover, Wheat (2009) claim that consumers of health care services are ill-placed to make an informed choice of the level of satisfaction they can accrue from a given medical intercession. Thus, when they experience malpractices and medical errors, they often feel concerned; in fact, Levinson & Gallagher (2007) points out that medical error in the healthcare industry poses a severe public health concern. Besides, it constitutes a serious threat to patient’s safety.
Mr. Reading is an inmate serving a life prison term for murder. He was a former drug and alcoholic addict; the addiction made him yield to Hepatitis C. He also showed symptoms of end-stage liver illness as a result of dependency. Dr. Reardon was approached by a prison warden to assess if Mr. Reading was eligible for liver transplant. The warden knew that once Dr. Reardon recommends Mr. Reading, his name will be on the list of United Network for Organ Transplant (UNOS) (Cameron, Subramanian, Sulkowski, Thomas, & Kenrad, 2008). Once forwarded to UNOS, the agency will award Mr. Reading a transplant based solely on his medical need. However, Dr. Reardon wanted to assess Mr. Reading likelihood of complying with treatment and subsequent follow-ups. Besides, he wanted to assess if Mr. Reading will avoid alcohol and drug related concerns for the entire period of his life. Dr, Reardon acknowledged that if Mr. Reading were finally given a transplant, his health care needs would be controlled by the prison staff until his demise and that illegal alcohol and drugs will be prohibited in the prison. Outside the jail, Dr. Reardon had other patients seeking transplants waiting for him. All these patients have strong network support and the family despite earning a low income. Dr. Reardon was presented with a mega decision to make because his assessment will have a significant impact on who emerges as the ultimate beneficiary of the organ transplant from the UONS transplant list.
Dr. Richard Ward is the only doctor in a rural town administering family health. He has been practicing in this city for over 30 years. One day, Theresa Scholtz, a sixteen-year-old went to visit him in his office. Scholtz never booked for an appointment to see him. Scholtz entered his office and asked the receptionist if she could be permitted to see Dr. Ward (Bowes, Adams, & Donohoe, 2004). Since Dr. Ward was busy, the nurse took Scholtz for an examination. She measured her temperature, blood pressure, and weight. After taking all these measurements, the nurse asked Scholtz the reasons for her visit. At this point, Scholtz looked too ill and nervous. She was hesitant to answer the nurse.She was afraid. Scholtz told the nurse that she came to see Dr. Ward to give her a morning-after-pill. When Dr. Ward was done with his other duties, she took Scholtz into an examination room; Scholtz explained to him what had transpired. She narrated that she was partying, had a few drinks and engaged in unprotected sex. Her major apprehension was getting pregnant owing to her tender age. She wants the Plan B pill so she could not think of procuring an abortion.Along the conversation, Dr. Ward was listening pensively. After a moment of listening, Dr. Wards told Scholtz’s that he was a strict follower of the organization policy; hence, he was not in a position to prescribe or offer morning-after-pill to her. However, he suggested alternatives for her that he can refer her to another physician he knows to assist her.
How to Improve the Practice
Medical errors may occur at a different location in the healthcare system. These areas include clinics, nursing homes, hospitals, pharmacies and in surgery centers among other areas. Errors may involve lab reports, surgery, medicines or pieces of equipment. To solve or reduce medical errors, some precautions should be undertaken by healthcare facilities. One major area to address is medicines. It is important for every medical practitioner to know and understand every medicine he/she is taking. Also, during surgery, patients should have a mutual understanding with the doctor and agree what exactly will be done. This will avoid issues of carrying out a wrong surgery. Other preventive methods include speaking up and raising any concerns or questions; a patient should ensure the doctors have all pertinent information regarding his/her health and a family member should always accompany a patient to the healthcare facility.
In conclusion, medical errors arise from different areas within a healthcare facility.The study has shown that errors resulting from medical cost the country a lot of financial resources. Thus, health practitioners can contribute to curbing medical errors through some ways.Alternatives such as; identifying the causes of errors, instituting a solution to the error and evaluating success is important for healthcare practitioners. While medical errors impact the lives of patients annually, they can be prevented. Strong leadership, availability of resources as well as being attentive can help make healthcare facilities free from medical errors.Medical errors are also a source of ethical concerns in the medical fraternity. The frequency of mistakes creates fears in patients; hence, patients may lose trust in the healthcare establishment. Besides, numerous ethical issues have come to the fore regarding decisions taken by medical practitioners in the course of their duty.
Thus, curbing medical errors requires methodical changes in the workflow of healthcare processes. A health facility should institute measures or controls that will aim at enhancing quality at different stages of health care provision to curb the issue of medical errors. Controls to check drug prescriptions, dispensing, administration and monitoring among others will ensure medical errors are kept to a minimum.
W.A., Adams, K.E., & Donohoe, M.T. (2004).Reproductive Rights. AMA Journal of Ethics, 6(9).
Cameron, A.M., Subramanian, A.K., Sulkowski, M.S., Thomas, D.L, & Kenrad, E.N. (2008). Should a Prisoner Be Placed on the Organ Transplant Waiting List? AMA Journal of Ethics, 10(2), 88-91.
Levinson, W, Gallagher, T.H. (2007). Disclosing medical errors to patients: A status report in 2007. CMAJ, 177(3): 265-267.
Wheat, K. (2009). Applying ethical principles in healthcare practice. Br J Nurs, 18(17): 1062- 1063.