Chronic Illness In Children Increases Chance Of Medical Error

A new study has analyzed medical errors affecting children who have been hospitalized. The medical error rate for children who suffer a chronic health condition was significantly higher than that for children who do not. The result of the study was expected, as chronic health conditions are likely to force a child to remain hospitalized for longer periods and may complicate the treatment of the child. Still, it is important for parents of children with chronic health conditions to understand that the risk of a medical mistake is elevated.

The study looked at children who were hospitalized in 2006. Of those children nearly half, 44 percent, suffered from a chronic health condition. Such conditions include asthma, cancer, diabetes and other serious health concerns. For the children without a chronic condition, the medical error rate was 1.3 percent. For those with such a condition, the medical error rate was slightly more than 5 percent. Researchers were quick to point out that not all the medical errors counted in the study were the result of medical “mistakes.” Some things that were counted as errors may not have resulted in harm to the child.

While the study did not identify potential solutions to the problem of medical errors, researchers repeated a suggestion that is common to patient safety groups. They suggest that the medical care provided to a child with a chronic condition be coordinated by a single individual, such as the child’s primary pediatrician. The Institute of Medicine has identified the fragmented nature of the healthcare system as a significant contributor to medical errors. Everyone who participates in a child’s health care should be aware of the actions that have already been taken to eliminate the risk of dangerous drug interactions and unnecessary medical procedures.

Source: Reuters, “More hospital errors when kids have chronic ills,” by Amy Norton, 11 September 2012

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