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Medical Error Risk Is Much Higher For Kids With Chronic Ailments

A new study analyzed government records to conclude that children with chronic conditions are around four times more likely than other child patients to suffer a medical error on the part of treatment providers. The research concluded that the rate of medical mistakes, including nursing errors and other forms of negligence, was more than five percent in kids with chronic problems.

The researchers examined hospital discharge records and looked for specific medical codes that indicate some type of error. For example, a code indicating a peculiar complication suggests a possible error.

While researchers used the term "error," they also carefully noted that an error does not necessarily amount to negligence, malpractice, or even a mistake. The reported errors, however, are considered preventable. For example, the study cited allergic reactions, post-surgery infections, or even the development of pressure ulcers as common problems.

To a parent or other concerned observer, the occurrence of one of these preventable errors certainly seems like a big mistake. Adverse medication reactions and hospital infections can be very serious problems.

It is less surprising that the rate is higher for children who are hospitalized with chronic ailments. A patient who spends more time in a hospital has more opportunities for a problem to occur, simply by virtue of prolonged exposure. This research should, however, be a reminder to parents and medical staff to stay on the lookout for signs of a medical error.

While medical mistakes do happen, a preventable error incidence rate of more than five percent is a concerning statistic. Medical malpractice law exists to reduce these numbers and make the medical profession safer by compensating victims for the errors that do occur.

Source: Reuters, "More hospital errors when kids have chronic ills," Amy Norton, Sept. 11, 2012


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