What are the most common medical errors?

Unfortunately, physicians and other medical professionals at hospitals and medical facilities make mistakes that can have devastating consequences for vulnerable patients. While some errors are quite rare and result from the perfect storm of ill-fated circumstances, others occur all too frequently and are considered preventable.

According to the University of Miami’s Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the six most common medical errors are as follows:

  1. Wrong-site surgery tops the list at over 13 percent. It happens most frequently with orthopedic procedures. Risk factors include multiple surgeons or transfers, perceived pressure and time restrictions, and alternate positioning of patients.
  2. Patient suicides come in second place at nearly 12 percent. Patient risks rise with insufficient staffing, inadequate security and infrequent patient observation.
  3. Operative and postoperative complications surprisingly occur more often during non-emergency efforts like endoscopies or catheter introductions.
  4. Delay in treatment was a contributing factor to over 50 percent of total sentinel event incidents resulting in patient mortality or permanent injuries. Misdiagnoses delayed emergency room treatments, along with doctors being unavailable and patients’ inability to find the ER entrance.
  5. Medication errors come in fifth place at over 8 percent. There are three critical junctures for most occurrences — during physician authorization, while being dispensed at the pharmacy and during administration by nursing staff.
  6. Patient falls round out the list and remain a continuing challenge for health care institutions. Patients who are mentally ill, impaired or intoxicated are at higher risk of falls, along with the elderly and patients who have histories of previous falls.

The Florida legislature requires mandated reporting for certain medical errors. However, merely reporting medical mistakes does not guarantee that the damage will be ameliorated for the affected patients. Some may have to seek civil remedies through the courts to get financial compensation or other reparation.

Source: University of Miami, “Medical Errors Prevention,” Arvey I. Rogers, M.D, Professor Emeritus, accessed April. 22, 2015