A white paper released in January 2020 by the Foundation for the Innovation and Development of Health Safety shows that 20-25 percent of patients are harmed by medical errors in primary and ambulatory care (outpatient) in both developed countries like the U.S. and Europe and in developing countries. Primary and ambulatory care is one of the most common types of patient care with over eight million encounters annually in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.1
According to the report, it is challenging to accurately identify the number of medical errors in primary care due to inaccessibility of such data but it is estimated that between 5.7 and 8.4 million deaths occur each year in low and middle-income countries as a result of poor quality of care.1
Drug Administration Errors Widespread in Healthcare Industry
The report identifies three of the most common types of medical errors.1 About 25 percent of preventable harm done to patients is due to mismanagement of drug administration. In the U.S. alone, adverse reactions to drugs are responsible for nearly 700,000 emergency room visits and over 100,000 hospitalizations each year.1 Globally, drug administration errors were identified as a leading cause of avoidable harm in the healthcare industry. The World Health Organization (WHO) attributes these errors to a number of causes including poor medication systems, human factors such as fatigue, poor environmental conditions and staff shortages.1
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists categorized medication errors on the following basis: prescribing, omission (ordered drug not administered), timing, use of an unauthorized drug (not authorized by a legitimate prescriber), wrong dosing, wrong drug preparation, wrong administration technique, expired drugs, failure to use laboratory data to monitor toxicity or effect, compliance and other errors.1
Hospital-Acquired Infection Most Common Surgery-Related Adverse Event
Surgical and pre-operative errors make up a significant part of medical errors globally. Examples of the most commonly occurring surgical errors include leaving foreign objects in a patient’s body, anesthesia errors, nerve damage, incorrect site, incorrect procedure and incorrect patient surgery with anesthesia errors being the most frequent fatal error. The most common adverse event associated with surgery was hospital-acquired infection.1
Misdiagnosis Causes 10-20 Percent of Medical Errors
The third major area of medical errors is misdiagnosis. Studies conducted in Colorado, Canada, Australia, New Zealand shows that misdiagnosis amounts to 10-20 percent of medical errors.
The report states that legislative, administrative and health information technology solutions can make a significant difference in minimizing the number of errors. The implementation of health systems such as computerized physician order entry systems, electronic health record systems and bar code electronic medication administration systems has shown a promising avenue for cost savings and patient safety.