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Medical errors are strongly associated with high mortality and morbidity that can seriously affect patients' health conditions and have detrimental or fatal consequences for the one. Such mishaps during the treatment process discredit the authority of the healthcare system and disturb trust-based relations between physicians and patients. It has been recently estimated that approximately one million total medical errors occur annually, and in reality, these figures can be even higher (Chamberlain, Koniaris, Wu, & Pawlik, 2012). The represented overview of the medical errors can be beneficial for enhancing the work of healthcare services. Additionally, obtained knowledge can assist in promoting preventive strategies designed for decreasing the incidence of diverse medical errors.
Medical sources specify a medical error as the failure of a planned action to be completed as intended or the use of a wrong plan chosen for achieving the goal of therapy (Chamberlain, Koniaris, Wu, & Pawlik, 2012). An alternative definition characterizes medical incidents as commissions or omissions with potentially negative consequences caused to a patient regardless of the outcomes (Chamberlain, Koniaris, Wu, & Pawlik, 2012). Furthermore, medical failures frequently occur in healthcare facilities, clinics, and medical or surgical centers. They frequently appear due to human factors that primarily involve insufficient medical or nursing experience, inaccurate documentation, communicative obstacles, illegible handwriting, medical negligence, and fatigue. Such factors as age, insufficient skills in coping with newly designed medical equipment, the severity of the disease or disorder can ultimately increase the rate of medical errors. In the course of various surveys, researchers distinguish between active or passive medical errors that do not harm an individual or, on the contrary, entail deleterious effects on the patient's body.
Medical errors are classified into medication administration errors, diagnostic failures, surgical mistakes, errors related to inappropriate blood transfusion processes, and blunders that occur due to medical equipment failures. Additionally, certain medical errors can occur due to misinterpretation of orders or prescriptions. The primary criterion that underlies the given classification is the stage or timing of the prescribed therapy at which the mistake occurs. It is worth noting that responsibility for medical errors commission equally falls on clinicians and nursing staff.
Medication errors can largely jeopardize patients' safety; however, they can be easily prevented without causing any adverse events. Such procedures as medication prescription, its dispensing, and administration are closely linked to medication errors. Medication administration error is defined as a failure in the treatment process that entails or has the potential to entail harmful consequences for the patient (Aronson, 2009). The most common types of medication administration errors include the inappropriate dosage and route of drug administration, the wrong drug, confusing the name of the prescribed medication, improper performance of nursing duties, and insufficient nursing education. Simultaneously, incorrect or missing container labeling, improper packaging, and storage of the drugs can also increase the risk of making a mistake of this kind. Stress load and various distractions during drug administration and the prescription of contraindicated drugs ultimately relate to failed medication administration.
Diagnostic medical errors primarily occur in the process of body checks up or body systems scanning. Diagnostic errors can appear in the process of autopsy, biopsy, performing laboratory tests, scanning, and monitoring of the body organs and systems. Multiple surveys show that the incidence of diagnostic blunders is unacceptably high, which requires immediate amendments (Graber, 2013). Diagnostic errors include establishing misdiagnosis, missed or delayed detection of a disorder, failed or tardy detection of impairments or complications, and diagnostic failures in revealing related or unrelated diseases.
It is a fact that medical errors are strongly associated with surgery, which, in turn, can significantly worsen a patient's condition and jeopardize one's life. Anesthesia error, nerve trauma or injury, a wrong incision, wrong surgical site, or even wrong patient are the key surgery-related medical mistakes. Foreign items or devices that were forgotten inside a patient's body after the surgery can also result in undesirable consequences for a patient. The incompetence of the surgeons, malpractice, improper preparations before or after the surgery, poor communication, inappropriate behavior of the surgical staff, and neglect of one's duties are the primary causes of the above-mentioned surgical errors.
The preventive strategy is critical for minimization and gradual elimination of medical errors in the healthcare system. Accurate and legible prescriptions with proper instructions, avoidance of vague instructions, elimination of abbreviations and dosage expressions that can be misinterpreted, an indication of the exact drug dosages can substantially decrease the number of medical errors committed (Steele, 2017). Active usage of bar-coded wristbands can be beneficial for patients verification. Keeping the workspace free of distractions and in proper shape can assist in avoiding or preventing errors related to medication administration. Furthermore, the implementation of the computerized systems of order entries given by the physician can ultimately improve and secure healthcare services and, consequently, reduce the incidence rate of medical failures of this kind. The presence of premixed medications in the nursing wards and adherence to the so-called five rights rule when preparing medications can be an effective preventive measure for lessening the number of medication accidents (Athanasakis, 2016). Additionally, short-term timeouts can relieve the staff's work stress that frequently occurs during surgeries; the same goes for regular checks that show whether the surgery goes amenably to the plan. The usage of special electronic barcodes can help control the number of sponges, towels, and other surgical instruments before and after surgery that can be effective in reducing errors associated with surgical treatment (Nordqvist, 2012). Ink application used for the identification of the exact surgical site can minimize the risk of operating a false surgical location. Providing all patients with a wristband that includes a unique identity bar code can effectively preclude them from committing medication and surgical errors (Steele, 2017). Additionally, sufficient interaction and cooperation between the nurses and healthcare providers, as well as the upgrading of the nursing skills can also contribute to the safety of healthcare interventions. Finally, a long-term discussion on the issue of the appropriateness of disclosing and reporting errors shows that medical error reports facilitate the enhancement of the nurse's and practitioners' skills, and restrain them from making similar or other medical errors in perspective.
In conclusion, medical errors are quite common in any kind of therapy. They can be committed at any stage of treatment but mostly they occur during drug administration, surgical interventions, and diagnostic procedures. The given stages are particularly error-associated milestones. Such causes as insufficient experience, practice, communication issues, neglect, and inappropriate drug management compromise healthcare safety. An effective preventive strategy can be beneficial for reducing and gradually eliminating medical errors in public health services.