Factors That Increase Chances of Medical Errors

As a leading cause of death in the United States, medical errors pose a significant threat to patient safety. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), medical errors typically occur as a result of multiple factors, such as communication issues or deficiencies in education. Although it is impossible to fully prevent human error, examining common sources of issues may help mitigate risk.

For example, MDLinx reports that cellphones are frequently used in medical settings to check references, communicate with colleagues and access patient data. Despite these benefits, they can also cause significant distractions that negatively impact patient care.

“Healthcare providers commonly hold the misperception that utilizing smartphones for multi-tasking in the healthcare setting improves efficiency and patient care,” write authors in a guideline published by Journal of Mobile Technology in Medicine. “Attentional shifts while multi-tasking interrupt the cognitive processing of information, situational awareness and may increase the likelihood of patient care errors.” To mitigate these concerns, authors recommend using “Do Not Disturb” modes or disabling notifications during clinical interactions.

According to an article from A Train Education, other factors that may increase risk for patient safety include:

  • incorrect use of medications, such as failure to fully read the label or double-check high-alert medications;
  • employee hesitation to ask for help or clarification;
  • lack of communication about important patient details such as weight, co-morbidities, allergies, etc.;
  • understaffing;
  • a hectic work environment; and
  • sleep deprivation.

To address these concerns, NCBI recommends:

  • enforcing multiple drug checkpoints and involving pharmacists in medication administration;
  • promoting an environment that encourages open communication between care providers;
  • minimizing time pressures; and
  • resolving issues related to staffing.

MLMIC encourages our insureds to review our existing resources on preventing medication errors and promoting patient safety.