Medical errors happen more times than they should. Some mistakes can result in the loss of loved ones and friends. Today, we’ll discuss what causes medical errors in hospitals and how you can help prevent them.

Causes of Medical Errors

Miscommunication is the leading cause of medical errors. Other causes include:

  • Human error
  • Insufficient information flow
  • Patient-related problems
  • Organizational transfer of knowledge
  • Technical failures
  • Inadequate policies
  • Staffing patterns and workflow

Read on to learn more about these medical error causes and why they happen.

Why Medical Errors Happen

Whether verbal or written, miscommunication between doctors, nurses, patients, or healthcare team members, pose a severe risk to patients. Inadequate information can pose the following problems: the absence of crucial information when needed to influence prescribing decisions, poor coordination of transfer of care or medication orders, and lack of correct communication of test results.

Some patient-related issues that contribute to medical errors are incorrect patient identification, failure to get consent, incomplete or insufficient patient assessment, and poor patient education.

In an organizational transfer of knowledge, inconsistent or incorrect training or ineffectual education for caregivers cause medical errors. New employees or temporary help require the adequate transfer of knowledge, which is critical in most areas.

Another area where medical errors occur readily is staffing patterns and workflow. A lack of enough staffing can put healthcare workers in situations that lead to mistakes. Also, technical failures with equipment, medical devices, implants, or grafts can all cause complications.

The final cause of medical errors is inadequate policies on the process of care, which you can typically trace back to poor documentation or non-existent or inefficient procedures.

Ways to Protect Yourself and Family

The number one way you can prevent medical errors is by being an active member of your healthcare team. That means taking part in every health decision. It’s also essential to keep your healthcare team informed by:

  • Ensuring all of your doctors know what medicines you are taking, which includes prescriptions, over-the-counter, supplements, herbs, and vitamins
  • Keeping the doctor aware of any allergies you have, even ones you have adverse reactions or severe side effects to
  • Letting your doctors know all the applicable information they need to know about you
  • Making them aware of any changes in symptoms or medication effects

Another way to prevent medical errors is to get information about your medication in terms you can understand. Ask the physician and pharmacist about directions, side effects, dosage, or any other relevant information you need to know before you leave the hospital, clinic, or pharmacy. Ask for all ingredients in medication and ensure when the doctor writes the prescription (most are digital now), that you can read it.

Prevent medical errors in the hospital by choosing one where many patients have had procedures or surgeries. Observe if healthcare professionals wash their hands when in direct contact with you. Before any procedure or surgery, make sure you and your doctor know exactly what’s being done and where to reduce confusion during or after surgery. This is a rare situation, but it does happen.


Flickinger Sutterfield & Boulton Can Help

If you’ve been the victim of a medical error and want to know your options, contact us. We can discuss your situation and help you make an informed decision.