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Hospital Mistakes Often Caught by Parents

Paige Tears-Gladstone8 months ago

Study shows that parents could be a great resource for medical oversight and prevention of mistakes in a healthcare environment.

Study Findings

Alisa Khan, a pediatrics researcher at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, undertook a review of data from 383 children who were hospitalized in 2013 and 2014. Khan and her team initiated the study in order to assess how frequently parents detected a mistake which had been overlooked by physicians.

Parents were told to complete written surveys which detailed any incidents that had occurred during their child’s hospital stay. Two physician reviewers were then assigned to sort the incidents in different categories to be further analyzed.

Of the sample reviewed, 34 parents (8.9%) reported 37 safety incidents. Of these, 62% were found to be medical mistakes and 24% involved other quality issues. Nearly a third of the medical mistakes reported caused harm and could have been prevented.

In spite of its small sample size and limited parameters, the research clearly showed that parents often catch overlooked medical errors.

Errors and How they Arise

In addition to its small size and range, this study was reliant on English-speaking parents, and was limited to a sample body which was largely comprised of well-educated and affluent women.  Thus, the actual figures for medical error could be much higher.

The researchers theorized that the children of non-English parents could be even more vulnerable to a variety of errors, and that inclusion of them within the study could have appreciably raised the figures. In the incident surveys, one of the main factors identified by parents as a cause of medical error was lack of communication.

They noted that often medication changes weren’t listed, information was documented incorrectly or on the wrong charts, and staff failed to converse at shift change. Parents wrote about a variety of incidents which could have been prevented, from delays in detection of foreign bodies following surgery and receipt of pain medication, to recognition and treatment of urinary retention.

This study reveals that parents often catch errors that have been overlooked by clinicians and highlights the benefit of parents speaking up when they feel something may be amiss.


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