Medical Errors A Major Healthcare Problem

Medical Errors A Major Healthcare ProblemMedical Errors A Major Healthcare Problem

Medical malpractice is a global problem that hurls an ever increasing number of physicians before the courts and poses significant financial burden on the health system, says Dr. Kourosh Saki, head of Lorestan University of Medical Science in Khorramabad.

A majority of medical errors in Iran occur in the field of gynecology followed by general surgery, dentistry and orthopedics. Every year, among the 5,000 medical error litigations referred to the courts, most are attributed to the field of gynecology, he said, IRNA reported.

Saki said delayed action in delivery and childbirth was one of the most common complaints. There are 10,000 gynecologists in the country.

Medical malpractice can be caused by a number of reasons including the failure to act in a timely manner by a healthcare professional; but the main cause of error usually boils down to negligence. This means the failure to exercise the necessary degree of caution, care and skill by a competent medical practitioner or healthcare provider.

Prescription drug errors are another common form of medical malpractice; administering the wrong medication or wrong dosage, mislabeling drugs, prescribing medication that may be allergic or causes a harmful reaction, and failing to warn about the side effects are all attributed to errors by medical practitioners.

Saki also pointed to the illegible handwriting of most doctors in written prescriptions that can cause serious mistakes while dispensing drugs. Electronic prescription (e-prescription) should be launched at the earliest, as it enables doctors to enter the prescription directly into a computer, and it is legible unlike the traditional handwritten prescription.

Pharmacies may also lack consultancy services to provide patients with the right alternative drugs, when the prescribed one is not available, and this too can cause fatal mistakes.

E-prescription will help curtail such errors.

Avoiding medication errors demands vigilance and the use of appropriate technology to help ensure that the proper procedures are followed. A computerized medical data system reduces errors by identifying and alerting doctors to patient allergies or drug reactions, eliminates poorly handwritten prescriptions, and helps support standardized dosage regimens.

According to Saki, lack of statistics and registration of medical errors are main issues to be addressed. Statistical analysis of the nature of complaints can help identify the most vulnerable medical practices and thereby provide guidance in the development of preventive strategies.

Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the US and between 210,000 and 440,000 patients  each year who go to the hospital for care suffer some type of preventable harm that contributes to their death. That would make medical errors the third-leading cause of death in America, behind heart disease and cancer.

Even in other developed countries, every year, 48,000 to 98,000 people die from medical errors that lead to expending more than $19.5 billion as compensation and putting a great deal of stress on patients, whereas 50% of the deaths could be preventable with a little extra care and vigilance.