What to Look Out For to Avoid Hospital Mistakes

By Trudy Lieberman


In a hospital with 100 patients who take four different drugs four times a day, with 10 possible places in the system where things can go wrong, there are 480,000 opportunities each month for an error to occur somewhere in the medication chain. Doctors can prescribe the wrong drug. Pharmacists can misinterpret a doctor’s handwriting, supply the wrong drug, mislabel it or mix it under unsanitary conditions. A nurse can give the drug to the wrong patient.

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Infections are usually caused by the failure of doctors and nurses to wash their hands, the failure to give antibiotics before surgery and the improper handling of tubes and other invasive devices.

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In 2003 the RAND Corp., a national research firm, found the chances of getting appropriate, adequate care that follows accepted medical guidelines are at best 50-50.

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