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Patient Safety Still Lags

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Little progress has been made since the 1999 report on medical mistakes entitled To Err Is Human. A study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that there has been no significant improvement in patient safety over the last decade. Researchers analyzed medical records from 10 North Carolina hospitals between January 2002 and December 2007. What they found was disheartening. Despite efforts to improve patient safety outcomes, the data showed there were still serious shortcomings. The investigators found 25 harms per 100 admissions. The scientists conclude that there is still much work to be done to make hospitals safer places for patients.

[New England Journal of Medicine, Nov. 25, 2010]

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I've worked in a hospital radiology department for fifteen years as an imaging technologist and the orders we get for inpatients, outpatients and even the Emergency Department are wrong maybe 40% of the time.

The clerks entering orders for outpatients have no idea what the prescriptions mean, the clerks on the floors have almost no idea what the doctor's orders mean and the orders from the Emergency Department are frequently from triage nurses or staff nurses who enter their own orders without checking with the ED physician(s).

In an effort to protect our patients from all this, we check every prescription or order we get because no one outside our department staff knows enough about how to order radiology studies.

I can't speak about any other medical service because I don't know enough about them.

All I can say is that if you are a patient talk with the person performing a medical service on you and try to ensure they're doing what you need. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions. Medical people make mistakes and sometimes these mistakes can do very serious harm to you.

I object to the broad and misleading language used in this short piece when you write "... that there has been no significant improvement in patient safety over the last decade." This sentence is based on hospitals in ONE state! (and one study)-- and the sentence should have stated "..... no significant improvement in patient safety IN NORTH CAROLINA HOSPITALS over the last decade."

To omit that information in the statement leads the reader to assume that the writer is talking about the rate of improvement in general in the country, which cannot be proven unless a lot more states' records are studied. How do you know that there hasn't been a LOT of progress in some of the other states??

Please be more accurate when you write!!

Thank you.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: THE INVESTIGATORS SPECIFICALLY SELECTED NORTH CAROLINA BECAUSE THERE HAS BEEN A GREAT DEAL OF ATTENTION TO PATIENT SAFETY IN THE STATE OVER THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS. WHEN WE ASKED, THEY SAID THEY SAW NO REASON TO BELIEVE NORTH CAROLINA IS SIGNIFICANTLY BEHIND OTHER STATES IN THIS RESPECT.

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