WARNING: MEDICAL ERRORS NOW THIRD LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN THE US

Medical Errors
Last week, the Washington Post announced shocking results of research directed by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  Only heart disease and cancer cause more deaths than medical error.  Communication is cited as one of the primary reasons for the rise, compounded by EHR implementation. 

Although the new certain got our attention, the significant rise was not entirely surprising due to recent personal events.  My almost-90-year-old father was hospitalized recently for a short stay.  As a former medical transcriptionist and instructor of transcription and coding, I make the extra effort to ensure a past medical history, including medications and allergies, is always readily available upon admission.  I also feel it important to be physically present as much as possible, both for emotional support and proactive communication.  On this hospitalization, however, I realized my physical presence was critical. 

Immediately after admission, a nurse entered Dad’s room with a drawn syringe.  When I questioned what was being given, she responded with the name of a medication on his list NEVER TO BE ADMINISTERED.   I explained the serious contraindication and that it was clearly marked in his record, to which she responded “The doctors never read all that”.  She was frustrated that now she needed to call the attending and get the order rescinded. 

The next day, as the nurse read off the list of meds Dad was to receive at one point, I realized they were not his meds and stopped her (the meds were already in the cup for him).  When challenged that they were not his meds, she reassured me that “the computer would have caught the error”.  Not reassuring at all! 
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