Medical errors in the Health Care System

Healthcare is a very vital sector and a lot depends on the nature and the competency of he human resources that are a part of the organization. One of the main issues related to human resources in the healthcare sector is regarding problems with finance (searching for higher pay-packages) and stress (due to work overload, frustration with the profession, burnout, fear of AIDS, etc) which may be detrimental to the use of these human resources in the organization. One of the main issues is that several of the laboratory positions in the organization remain to be unfilled.

In an organization a staff member remained on an average ranging from 2 to 5 years. Once a five year term was completed, the staff member expected a major jump in their position and payments and hence to shift organization in order to enable this jump. Once a staff member actually quit his/her job in the organization, the other staff members had to be utilized in order to make up for their position. They were asked to do overtime, given a higher patient work load and work beyond office hours, which increased stress levels.

Several components of care including the quality of care, the staff moral, management issues and access of care are affected, if there exists a shortage of technical personnel, and if the already existent staff members are burdened with a heavy patient work load. As the staff members would not be concentrating much on each and every patient due to the heavy work load, there are chances that the quality of care would deteriorate. Staff dissatisfaction levels would increase and the ability for the organization to expand and to provide care for an increasing population would reduce.

There would also exist if management issues at various levels in the organization (Starzynski, 1988). In the organization about 84 % of the staff members said that they found it either difficult or very difficult to get qualified medical laboratory technologists to work for them. This is a similar story with other medical professionals including phlebotomists. On the other hand clerical staff stays for shorter periods in the organizations. This was because technical staff feels that they should gather more experience before moving on to another organization.

The healthcare organizations are finding a much greater deficiency in technical healthcare staff than that was existent about 20 years back (Starzynski, 1988). One way of meeting these shortages is to have part-time workers doing a job in the organization. Another method is to actually change the work-schedule of the laboratory personnel so that any shortage can be overcome to a certain extent. However, changing the work schedule often results in stress, burnout, work overload and increasing the dissatisfaction levels.

Some of the current laboratory personnel even suggested increased use of computers, automation and instrumentation in order to help reduce the burden on human resources (Starzynski, 1988). There are several types of errors that are actually reported by physicians. These include:- 1. errors whilst prescribing drugs (most frequent of all errors) – giving drugs that are contraindicated or in wrong doses 2. errors in getting appropriate laboratory test results – not done in a timely manner, wrong test done, not explained the importance to the patient or not reported on time

3. errors in compiling the patient details in the medical records – improper filing methods or losing the patient records 4. errors in dispensing drugs – giving the wrong drug or wrong dosage 5. errors in managing test results that are abnormal – did not identify abnormality or wrong interpretation of the results (Dovey, 2003) These errors may be due to several causes including:- 1. malfunction of the equipment or the devices 2. difficulty in diagnosing the medical condition 3. use of a manual patient record system 4. Deficiencies of the staff members 5.

Excessive patient load 6. Not using computers and information systems in the work flow (Dovey, 2003). Several of the errors arise due to problems in the communications in a healthcare organization. A physician may order for one test, but several issues arise such as the test may not be conducted in a timely manner or the test results may not be interpretated leading to missing an important part of the diagnosis of the patient. An error may occur due to the commission or omission of a task which ultimately has negative consequences on the patient care.

One of the main justification that a medical error should be avoided is that medical ethics and law concentrates on ‘first do no harm’ to the patient. Laboratory error can contrite significantly in increasing the mortality and morbidity rates (Pai, 2008). There are several types of errors that can be committed. These include:- • pre-analytical (due to biochemical and hematological variables) • analytical (due to the conductance and analysis of tests) • post-analytical (wrong transcription of the test results or wrong comprehension of test results) • Errors due to improper teamwork

• Errors due to a lack in supervision and leadership (Pai, 2008, & AHRQ, 2007). Method by which laboratory errors can be significantly reduced include:- • Better communication between the physician and the laboratory staff (knowing the various tests available; ability to understand the strengths and limitation of the tests; appropriate use of tests; team approach) • Making the test results clear, concise and standarized • Better team processes and techniques • having a competent leader, manager and supervisor who is able to understand various process existent in the team

• Avoiding unnecessary and unrequired tests • Understanding the limitations of each test • Given special importance to test results that are abnormal • Using the latest advances in science in delivering laboratory test results (Pai, 2008, & AHRQ, 2007). References: AHRQ (2007). “Many Errors by Medical Residents Caused by Teamwork Breakdowns, Lack of Supervision. ” Retrieved on April 14, 2008, from AHRQ Web site: http://www. ahrq. gov/news/press/pr2007/teambreakpr. htm Doyey, S. M. Et al (2003).

“Types of Medical Errors Commonly Reported by Family Physicians. ” Am Fam Physician, 67, 697. http://www. graham-center. org/x394. xml Pai, S. A. (2008). “Laboratory tests: proper communication reduces error. ” Retrieved on April 14, 2008, from BMJ Web site: http://student. bmj. com/issues/05/11/editorials/399. php Starzynski, G. (1988). “Staffing: problems and solutions in 19 New England laboratories. ” Retrieved on April 14, 2008, from Medical Laboratory Observer Web site: http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_m3230/is_n11_v20/ai_6817548