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Why Hospitals Are Dangerous to Your Health

by David Gutierrez

(NaturalNews) More than one-third of patients receiving injected medication in the intensive care unit of a hospital may experience an error, according to a study conducted by researchers from Rudolfstiftung Hospital in Austria and published in the British Medical Journal.

"It is a really serious problem," lead researcher Andreas Valentin said. "The administration of injected medication is a weak point in patient safety."

The researchers examined 1,300 patients receiving injected medication in one of 113 intensive care units in 27 countries over the course of one 24-hour period. They found that 441 patients, or 34 percent, experienced at least one error in the administration of their medication. Nearly half of these experienced more than one error in the study period. Seven patients suffered severe harm from the errors, and in five cases the errors contributed to a patient's death.

The most common errors involved medication being given at incorrect times, or a scheduled dose not being given at all. Other errors included incorrect dosages or administration of the wrong drug altogether. A full 69 percent of the errors occurred during routine, rather than emergency, care.

Among the drugs involved were insulin, blood thinners and sedatives.

Medical staff attributed one-third of the errors, in part, to stress and tiredness. Other factors leading to errors included recent changes to the names of drugs, failure to follow hospital protocol and poor communication between staff members.

Responding to the study, the Intensive Care Society called for improved training and protocols to reduce the error rate in high-stress medical settings.

"The urgency of treatment can … mean that these drugs have to be located rapidly, prepared efficiently and administered quickly to prevent further deterioration," the group said. "Unfortunately, this pressure does mean that the combined total incident rate is almost inevitably higher than in care areas where fewer medicines are required."

Valentin agreed that changes to hospital procedure could significantly reduce error rates.

"With the increasing complexity of care in critically ill patients, organizational factors such as error reporting systems and routine checks at shift changes can reduce the risk of such errors," he said.

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