According to a landmark Canadian study there are approximately 70,000 medical mistakes each year that could have been prevented. Although hospitals in Canada are excellent it is clear that some issues exist in our system that allow these preventable medical mistakes to occur, and steps should be taken to correct this so Canadian patients are safe.
The Canadian Adverse Events Study
The Canadian Medical Association Journal recently publishing a study which confirms a frightening trend in health care. Published in 2004, the article, titled The Canadian Adverse Events Study: The incidence of adverse events in hospital patients in Canada, examines data relating to incidences of medical mistakes.
Together with 15 researchers across Canada, Peter Norton of the University of Calgary and Ross Baker of the University of Toronto collected this data and analyzed it to gain a deeper understanding of the root of this medical mistake epidemic. The research was gathered from over 3,700 patients in 20 different hospitals.
The study concluded that over 24,000 patients die each year because of an adverse event, and similar data was found in studies conducted in the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand.
Other highlights from the report include:
- 87,500 patients who are admitted to acute care hospitals in Canada will experience a medical mistake
- 37% of these events are highly preventable
- 1 in 19 adults will be given the wrong dosage of medication or the incorrect medication altogether
- 24% of adverse events are related to incorrect medications
- A medical mistake will happen to 1 in 13 patients admitted to Canadian hospitals
- Surgery was the most common event resulting in a medical mistake, followed by medication error
Frighteningly, the common thread in many of these cases is that patients and their families were not alerted that a medical mistake had occurred. Patients have an indisputable right to understand the nature of their care, which includes being made aware that an adverse event has happened, and medical professionals owe it to their patients to be forthcoming with any and all information relating to their health. If steps are to be taken to lessen the incidence of adverse medical events then there may be some deep changes that need to happen within the medical industry.
In order to eliminate or lessen the occurrences of these medical mistakes, hospitals may need to reexamine and rework the existing internal systems they use for the communication and execution of their work. Most often, the adverse events are a direct result of a series of failures which most likely could be avoided with improvements in these internal systems.
Based on the data from the study there are a number of solutions that exist to improve the complex hospital systems that Canada has. Some recommendations include:
- A policy of comprehensive tracking to encompass any errors that have been made and ensure that they are communicated to the patient
- Government support and funding for patient safety initiatives, as healthcare facilities require additional funds to improve infection and quality control, provide safety training for employees and improve patient safety standards
- Higher standards of patient safety must be put in place and a comprehensive strategy must be developed. Hospital accreditation standards should include these new requirements
It is an important issue of public health to know the occurrences of medical mistakes and to understand their repercussions, not only for the victims of the mistakes, but for Canada’s healthcare system. Adverse events are clearly a significant risk factor in being admitted to a hospital, and studies have confirmed the increasing frequency with which they are occurring.
The first changes to be made will require full disclosure to the patient of any and all medical mistakes, and following the implementation of this new approach there need to be comprehensive reporting systems and improved training for hospital employees.
Human error is always a factor, but if we can reevaluate and redesign the methods of care that are in our complete control we are sure to lessen the frequency that these adverse events, or medical mistakes, negatively affect patients and their families. If you have become the victim of an adverse medical event, contact the Windsor-based lawyers at Greg Monforton & Partners today – you may be eligible for compensation.