Entering a hospital, a patient should feel assured that they have come to a place where their ailments and pains will be tended to professionally. Sometimes, however, due to personal or environmental reasons, even the healthcare professionals can make commit mistakes.
Medical errors can even turn out to be fatal in some cases. Each year, in the United States alone, up to 99,000 patients die because of medical errors committed by professional medical staffs.
Medical errors are diagnostic or treatment errors or misjudgments. These include medication errors, surgical mistakes, inaccurate documentation, and unsterilized equipment. Medical errors can expose a patient to the dangers of avoidable risks.
How to Prevent Medical Errors in Hospitals
If you want to be able to limit medical errors on your watch, then you’ll have to go through the following tips to get an idea, or a few, as to how you can prevent these fatal occurrences:
1. Use Electronic Health Charts for Documentation
You cannot neglect the importance of keeping accurate data on your patients. The medical staff should be keeping straight tabs on all the patients and their histories. This is where electronic health charts can come in handy.
An EHR is a digital document that keeps track of sensitive patient information, such as medical history, allergies, past medical treatments, and current lab reports. This tool is powered by Big Data solutions that are revolutionizing the healthcare industry at every turn. These records help ensure automation and real-time regulation of data on different databases, so that there are no data delays and inaccuracies in the information.
As a healthcare practitioner, EHR can make your life easier by automating billings and other details, and also provide you the full overview of a patient’s medical history. These solutions are not only providing the means of bettering our healthcare outcomes, but also, by automating certain healthcare tasks, are making the lives of healthcare practitioners a lot easier.
2. Follow An Adequate Hygiene Protocol
About one in every twenty-five American patients contracts an infection from within the hospital. Infections within hospitals spread from touching unhygienic surfaces, such as doorknobs or tables, or by coming into contact with the patients.
As a doctor, good hygiene is non-negotiable, and only handwashing doesn’t count. Before checking up on any of the patients, always squirt a few drops of the liquid sanitizer from the dispenser or simply wash your hands with soap.
Once your hands are clean, you should then wear disposable gloves, a mask, and a hairnet, if checking up on a patient with an infectious disease. Observing these precautions will ensure that you are not introducing any new pathogens into the interaction with your patients.
The hygiene protocols extend to medical equipment as well. You should ensure that only sterile medical equipment gets used on the patients. This saves them from contracting life-threatening illnesses.
For example, if you use an already-used needle, it will increase your risks for contracting Hepatitis C. Same precautions should be observed for other invasive medical apparatuses, such as catheters and ventilators.
Non-sterilized instruments may cause a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and pneumonia. Infections caused this way can be avoidable, and are extremely painful to bear for the patients, which can prolong their in-hospital time.
3. Pay Attention When Handing Out Prescriptions
The FDA has reported over 100,000 medication errors in the United States alone, every year. Prescription errors are extremely risky and incidents of unsuspecting overdose.
Therefore, you need to exercise vigilance when prescribing medicines. You should opt for digital prescriptions, that pharmacists can also verify online, over the handwritten ones.
If you are confused between common medication names, you should look them up before prescribing. Involving your patients in the prescription process will also minimize chances of committing errors. Read the name of the medicines aloud and encourage your patient to look through the prescriptions to confirm the doses. Simple tweaks in your prescription process can go a long way toward minimizing the risks of committing fatal medical errors.
4. Go Through Surgical Details
More than 4,000 patients who undergo surgery, in the US, get injured from a surgical error every year. Surgical errors are dangerous since they can cripple, disfigure or even end a patient’s life. Therefore, due diligence should be observed when operating surgically.
Before a patient can undergo anesthesia, you should confirm the details of the surgery, including the date, time, and type of procedure, and mark the surgical site with a non-toxic marker.
After these preliminary steps, you could make some other mistakes during the procedure, such as leaving actual medical equipment inside the patient’s body – you’d be surprised to learn how common that is.
Therefore, it is good to go over the apparatus checklist and tag each piece of equipment with a radio tag frequency which can help you with tracking. When the patient gets stitched up, you should ensure the surgical site stays clean and sterile till it heals. These measures will ensure that you are not committing any avoidable medical errors during a surgery.
5. Don’t Ignore Patient Symptoms
Healthcare practitioners have been known to callously disregard certain symptoms. As a healthcare provider, you need to listen to every patient complaint. For example, if they complain of a severe chest pain during a treatment, don’t be dismissive of their feedback.
When a patient’s health deteriorates because of the pills you prescribed them, consider discontinuing them immediately. You should not prematurely pin patient grievances as circumstantial or mere side effects of the treatment because often unaccounted for symptoms are indicative of underlying issues. Be real and introspect whether you’ve inherent biases for some treatment options over others.
6. Store Medicines Carefully
Every medication has to be stored a certain way. You should make sure you are following the storage guidelines to T. All medicines, including capsules, pills, and liquids, should be kept in dry storage, away from direct sunlight and moisture. Temperature readings should be closely monitored for drugs that need special arrangements.
You need to discard and do away with any medicine that smelling off, has become discolored, cracked, or has simply past its expiry. Always tell the patients to return the medicine with broken seals and tampered packaging.
7. Take Breaks Between Patient Checkups
Care providers have their limitations, and there are only a certain number of patients one can see on any given day. Stress, exhaustion, and even burnout are common conditions plaguing the workforce in healthcare. In 2018, American physicians showing signs of burnout were found to have made twice as many errors than they would normally.
Therefore, if you are feeling tired or exhausted, take a break. Fatigued care providers are more likely to commit avoidable errors, which can lead to some fatal consequences. A tired mind cannot retain crucial details, miss out on essential information, loses focus, and commits highly consequential errors in judgement.
Medical errors can be fatal and bring ill-repute on the organization. Therefore, proper care in maintaining hygiene, sterilization of equipment, writing accurate prescriptions, and incorporating technological solutions into healthcare practices, can minimize the risks of medical errors.