Medical Errors: Impact on Health Care Quality

Medical Errors: Impact on Health Care Quality

Jayita Poduval (Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2237-9.ch046
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The impact of medical errors on the delivery of health care is massive, and it significantly reduces health care quality. They could be largely attributed to system failures and not human weakness. Therefore improving health care quality and ensuring quality control in health care would mean making systems function in a better manner. In order to achieve this all sections of society as well as industry must be involved. Reporting of medical error needs to be encouraged and this may be ensured if health care professionals as well as administrators and health consumers come forward without fear of being blamed. To get to the root of the problem- literally and metaphorically- a root cause analysis and audit must be carried out whenever feasible. Persons outside the medical care establishment also need to work with medical service providers to set standards of performance, competence and excellence.
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While almost all manner of drugs or procedural intervention comes with the disclaimer of a ‘side effect’, the quantum and severity of this sees wide disparities across communities and societies. There are medical facilities where such side effects are virtually unheard of and others where the same are a perfectly acceptable part of medical treatment. So it is absolutely possible that side effects of medical therapy could be minimized and the quality of such therapy maximized.

These undesirable effects may be broadly classified into the known therapeutic extensions of drugs and interventions, adverse drug reactions or harmful effects of a drug given in therapeutic doses, medication errors, and the most serious of them all- medical malpractice and negligence (Grober & Bohnen, 2005; Keriel-Gascou, Figon, Letrilliart, Chaneliére, & Colin, 2011). A new dimension has been added to this, such as when a potential or incipient undesirable effect of medical treatment has been identified and prevented- the near miss (Kessels-Habraken, Van der Schaaf, De Jonge, & Rutte, 2010).

What might be the reasons for medical error to occur and thereby negatively impact the quality of health care?

The two most common reasons, and also the easiest to explain, are the twin effects of the speed of scientific technology and the rising perceptions and expectations of health care consumers. Technology brings with it more gadgetry and less human interaction. While computerized systems might seem to offer errorless functioning, one must appreciate that at some point human presence might be required, and this is where room for error might exist. The same argument could be extended to patient expectations- more advanced technology does raise the hopes of the consumers of health, even though serious limitations of this technology might exist, and these would be by and large unknown to the end user. Thus health and medical care are very often compromised even when all infrastructure and technology exist to deliver high quality medical care.

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