10 Common Medical Errors Everyone Should Know About

An estimated 98,000 hospital patients are killed every year, according to the Institute of Medicine, as a direct result of medical errors. It also results in millions of injuries, increased medical bills, and longer recovery times. Even though these are ten essential medical errors everyone should know, there are also many others.

  1. Medication Errors. According to the National Academies, medication errors are among the most common medical errors, harming at least 1.5 million people every year. The extra medical costs of treating these injuries in hospitals alone amount to $3.5 billion a year. The same group sells a book entitled “Preventing Medication Errors for $49.96, but you can read it online for free.
  2. Abbreviation Errors. With tons of medical abbreviations for all sorts of conditions, caregivers can sometimes misread them. Included are which medications, dosage, how to administer and more. The Institute for Safe Medication has an entire list of common abbreviation errors available as a free PDF.
  3. Preventable adverse drug reaction. Examples of this include drug-drug, drug-diet, and drug-herbal interactions. The Food and Drug Administration has made available a guide that is used to instruct medical school students. It also includes a sample case, drug metabolism, adverse drug reaction reporting, and more.
  4. Patient falls. This often occurs in a hospital when a patient who has trouble getting around attempts to do so without help. Causes of the falls include trouble with balance, confusion, sedation, medication, and increased patient to staff ratio. Visit RnCeus to learn more.
  5. Wrong site surgery. This medical error can happen in a number of ways including incorrect incision, organ puncture, delayed or prolonged surgery, unsanitary utensils, and surgery on the wrong organ. This can occur in just about any surgery from childbirth to amputation and even cosmetic surgery. Stop by Oprah.com to get a free guide on how to avoid this from Dr. Oz.
  6. IV errors. Studies show errors involving intravenous or IV medications given in the hospital rank high on the list of medical mistakes. Wrong dosage or line problems can occur. Fortunately, there is a new device that can prevent these sorts of errors. Check to see if your hospital has one.
  7. Hospital Infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the highest rates of infection occurred in the burn ICU, the neonatal ICU, the pediatric ICU, and are estimated to occur in five percent of all acute-care hospitalizations. These nosocomial infections are estimated to result in as many as 70,000 deaths per year in the United States. Visit Stop Hospital Infections to learn more, read true life accounts, or share your own story.
  8. Incorrect diagnosis. Wrong diagnosis of any disease can lead to poor or no treatment of the actual disease, while it continues to damage the patient. All forms of tests have false positives and a doctor’s reliance on a single test can cause a misdiagnosis of a healthy person. For more information, you can visit Completely Wrong Diagnosis for diseases that are over or under diagnosed and more.
  9. Equipment failure. Medical and diagnostic tools that are not functioning properly or have dead batteries can lead to serious injury or death. These can include heart defibrillators, anesthetic machines, x-rays, and more. Be sure to stop by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality for tons of resources on medical errors and patient safety.
  10. Billing Errors. Betting on patients not knowing what can and cannot be billed for, some hospitals may sneak in charges. They use fancy terms and ridiculous charges to confuse. Patients with high or confusing medical bills should call the hospital’s billing office for a play by play account of each expenditure. For more information, or for help, visit here.

The best way to avoid these ten common medical errors and others is to be your own best advocate. Know what you are taking, how much to take, why you are having that procedure, and have a close family member or friend help you if you are too ill to make decisions. Also, make sure to tell your doctors everything you are taking from prescriptions to over the counter medicines to herbal supplements or any controlled substances.