Hospital Working Hard to Prevent Recurrence of Medication Errors

By ThinkReliability Staff

Experts believe that most medical errors go unreported, due to a combination of lax reporting laws, strict patient privacy laws, and ambiguous definitions of these medical errors.  However, Seattle Children’s Hospital is making an attempt to be forthright and accountable with not only its mistakes, but its plan for improvements.  Seattle Children’s made the news recently when it published the serious reportable events that had occurred there from 2004-2010, including two deaths resulting from medication errors.

Additionally, a third child died after a medication error in September 2010, but it has not been determined if the medication error contributed to the death and an adult patient was given the wrong medication but recovered at around the same time.

In response to these errors, Seattle Children’s is performing a root cause analysis by independent experts to determine the causes.  In the meantime, Seattle Children’s is making specific process improvements, such as allowing only pharmacists and anesthesiologists to administer calcium chloride (an overdose of which led to one of the deaths), as well as general training and reminders for staff.  The hospital held a patient safety day on Saturday, October 30th, 2010, where over 550 staff members participated in training and simulations designed to improve patient safety, with a focus on medication safety.

Although the root cause analysis of the various medication errors has not been completed, Seattle Children’s has identified some specific causes that may contribute to medication errors and is launching improvements to try and reduce the impact of these causes.  For example, interruptions to nurses when they are in the process of ordering, preparing or administering medications can lead to medication errors.  During the training, the staff discussed the types of interruptions that occur and what can be done to reduce them.

Medication errors are estimated to kill 1.5 million people per year, so Seattle Children’s is not the only medical facility that will find itself reeling after the deaths of several patients.  These other facilities should take Seattle Children’s lead and begin a serious attempt to reduce these errors, and deaths.

Want to learn more?  See our webpage about medication errors in medical facilities or watch the video.