Study: Hospital Errors May be 10 Times as Common as Previously Thought

Study: Hospital Errors May be 10 Times as Common as Previously ThoughtCurrent common methods of detecting hospital errors miss as much as 90 percent of them, a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Utah determined.

The study points out that this equates to errors in nearly one in three hospital admissions, WebMD reports. It is reportedly unclear if the increasing error rate is due to deteriorating hospital standards, better detection methods or patient selection – since many procedures are now conducted on an outpatient basis, the pool of hospitalized patients has become, on average, sicker. Sicker patients mean more medications, surgeries and procedures, which increases the risk for error, the researchers say, according to USA Today.

Regardless of the reason for the high error level, it is concerning that the voluntary error reporting systems used by most hospitals and recommended by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) only detect 10 percent of them, the study's authors say.

The Global Trigger Tool, which the researchers compared with the standard voluntary reporting systems, is superior in detecting error, the researchers say. This tool involves having two or three trained pharmacists or nurses review medical charts for certain "triggers," including stop medication orders, abnormal test results and others, and then following up with a physician to try to determine if the trigger led to any medical mistakes. When the voluntary reporting system and the trigger tool were applied to 795 patient records, the voluntary reporting system detected 35 errors, whereas the trigger tool detected 354, the study says.

Commenting on the study, Dr. John Birkmeyer, director of the Center for Healthcare Outcomes and Policy at the University of Michigan, said that a problem with the Global Trigger Tool is that it may be too sensitive, pointing out that the errors it identified and the voluntary reporting system did not were the least severe.