The Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory is a state agency tasked with the collection and reporting of both medical events that harm patients (serious events) and those that do not result in harm (incidents). Pennsylvania is one of the only states in the U.S. with such an agency, which has been in operation since 2002.
According to a news release from the Advisory last month, 2016 saw an increase in the total number of incidents, up by 7% from 2015. Despite the increase in the number of incidents (near-misses), the number of high-harm events has been decreasing, and the number of these kinds of events that have resulted in a patient’s death are also decreasing (a 14% decrease since 2015). This data shows that Pennsylvanians are dying less often due to medical errors, but the data also shows that the number of incidents has been increasing.
Interestingly, the data is at odds when compared to national reports. A 2016 report in the British Medical Journal, Medical error—the third leading cause of death in the US, estimates the number of deaths due to medical errors in the U.S. at 250,000/year. A 1999 Institute of Medicine report puts that number at around 100,000. When comparing the two numbers, it’s clear that there’s a marked increase in the annual number of patient deaths due to medical errors. It may be that Pennsylvania performs better than most other states, or there may be problems with the reporting of serious events and incidents to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory. Under-reporting of medical errors is quite common in the medical field, whether it’s an error by a surgeon, nurse or pharmacist at a hospital.
Are Medical Errors Increasing Due to Technology?
In the past 5 years, as Pennsylvania area hospitals began implementing information systems, there has been an increase in the number of technology errors, an altogether new category of medical errors.
The vast majority of hospitals in Pennsylvania have implemented information systems to create patient records and streamline communication between hospital departments. Errors, however, occur. In fact, hundreds of medication errors attributed to health information system errors have been reported in Pennsylvania. The majority of those errors were attributable to human error. For example, a nurse scans the wrong bar code when ordering medication for a patient, or the wrong quantity is entered. These are errors that are difficult to catch and resolve because they are no ways for the information system to find and correct the error. It has to be done at point of the order or before administration of the medicine. Accordingly, these types of errors will only increase.
Pennsylvania Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Our law firm represents patients/loved ones who’ve suffered due to a medical error by a hospital, doctor or medical staff. Contact us for a free consultation. 215.399.9255
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