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How hospitals can help prevent medical errors

Medical complications and fatalities are an unfortunate reality for hospitals. Often times, little can be done to prevent such tragedies from occurring. When it comes to medical errors, however, facilities can take steps to protect themselves, their medical professionals and, most importantly, the lives of their patients.

According to a Washington Post article, medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States, resulting in 251,000 deaths each year. While concern for patient safety is paramount, hospitals also must worry about potential liability in the face of these types of accidents.

Although many hospitals and health-care facilities may shy away from even talking about medical errors, it can be beneficial to all involved parties when they do address the issue. In fact, there are strategies facilities can employ to help prevent these types of incidences from occurring. Several ideas for medical error prevention have been incorporated in other hospitals, including the following:

  • Use standard protocols to reduce ventilator and central line infections.
  • Develop protocol and checklists for handing off patients between staff members.
  • Involve pharmacists in medication decisions to avoid mistakes in dosage or wrong medication.
  • Be vigilant about following Federal guidelines for disinfecting patient rooms, surgical labs, surgical equipment, diagnostic tools and other items.
  • Use best practices for maintaining proper hand hygiene.
  • Involve the entire care team in the process of diagnosing patients to ensure greater accuracy.
  • Make electronic health records accessible across all departments, from diagnostic to outpatient to surgical and pharmaceutical. Involve outside vendors and IT departments to ensure systems stay up-to-date.

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