Well­ness Arti­cles

Chil­dren Vic­tims of Too Many Med­ical Errors

In a report from the April 25, 2001 Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion (JAMA) and reported on the WebMD web site, comes an alarm­ing report of research on the high inci­dence of med­ical errors effect­ing hos­pi­tal­ized chil­dren. Accord­ing to the study researchers looked at 1,120 chil­dren admit­ted to two teach­ing hos­pi­tals dur­ing the spring of 1999. They reviewed almost 11,000 orders for med­ica­tions and found 616 errors which trans­lates into a 6% error rate.

Accord­ing to the study most of these errors were rel­a­tively small result­ing from cler­i­cal prob­lems. How­ever, alarm­ingly 115 of them could have poten­tially lead to harm, and 26 actu­ally did lead to harm to the chil­dren. In as much as pre­vi­ous stud­ies have shown an alarm­ingly high rate for med­ical errors over­all, this recent study shows that the num­ber of poten­tial prob­lems was three times higher in chil­dren as com­pared to a pre­vi­ous study of med­ical errors in adults.

Study author Rainu Kaushal, MD, an instruc­tor at Har­vard Med­ical School, says, “Chil­dren pose unique chal­lenges. Unlike adults, almost all pedi­atric drug doses must be spe­cially cal­cu­lated. Phar­ma­cists often have to dilute stock solu­tions to make them suit­able for chil­dren. When a error occurs, very small, very sick chil­dren may not have the inter­nal buffers needed to deal with even a small dos­ing error.”

Leon Wyszewian­ski, PhD, an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of health man­age­ment and pol­icy at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan School of Pub­lic Health com­mented on a solu­tion, “Low­er­ing the error rate is not just a mat­ter of get­ting physi­cians to change their ways. We have to change the sys­tems that sur­round them. We have to hold admin­is­tra­tors and man­agers account­able for solv­ing prob­lems like this.”

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