Study Highlights Dangers Of Preventable Oregon Hospital Errors

Oregon hospital patients hope for a safe and harmless hospital environment. That is why they may be dismayed to learn the results of a recent study. The Oregon Patient Safety Commission reports that in 2009 at least 32 patients died, because of preventable hospital errors.

There were 136 total incidents investigated. Patients suffered minimal or no harm in 22 percent of the incidents, while half resulted in serious injury or death. In nine of the incidents, a surgeon operated on the wrong body part or even the wrong patient. Additionally, objects were accidentally left in patients 21 times.

While the exact causes of the errors were not included in the study, the causes could be linked to
negligence on the part of the hospital, either through technician, nurse or physician errors or a breakdown in information. Miscommunication, in fact, causes a large number of errors. Because safety standards often overlap, serious incidents result from simultaneous safety lapses. This emphasizes the need for safety guidelines that fit into a complex workflow.

The report highlighted that hospitals still need to make improvements in the area of patient notification. A hospital must notify patients in writing for every serious adverse event. Written notification was only provided in 43 out of 80 cases in 2008.

Some hospitals believe oral notification helps establish a better relationship with their patients, compared to a written letter. Other times, it is not always clear if an incident is a reportable event. Eight hospitals provided written notification for every adverse event since 2006, showing complete compliance is possible.

Hospitals, however, are making a good faith effort to improve safety practices and reduce errors. Oregon hospitals made positive progress in the areas of implementing evidence based safety practices and cultivating a culture of workplace safety.

Positive Changes to Improve Patient Safety

Electronic medical records are another area in which Oregon hospitals performed well. The report shows that 61 percent of Oregon hospitals established electronic medical records. This is higher than the national average of 51 percent. The study reported another positive result as well. Around 87 percent of hospitals met targets of giving surgical patients antibiotics on time. This is a significant increase from 75 percent at the beginning of 2008.

One doctor claims the numbers may be attributable to increased reporting, rather than a failure to reduce errors. He says that in the past doctors accepted that errors occurred but now the medical community knows that many of these events are preventable and must be reported.

A person injured due to a hospital error may be entitled to compensation for the hospital’s negligence. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can provide knowledge guidance as well as assist with obtaining any available compensation.