April 16, 2008 by: Heidi Stevenson
A report produced by PubMed Central states that 1.7 errors per day are experienced by patients in intensive care units (ICU). At least one life-threatening error occurs at some point during virtually every ICU stay. 78% of the serious medical errors are in medications.
1.7 errors per day times 78% equals the likelihood of experiencing a medication error while in an ICU of well over 100% per day. That means the odds are that you will receive the wrong medication or the wrong amount of a medication at least once every single day of an ICU stay.
If this is frightening, then consider that ICUs are where the patient is supposed to receive the highest quality of care. Try to imagine what that means about a routine hospital stay.
The article's introduction notes that there has been no improvement in patient safety since the 1999 report, "To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System" published by the Institute of Medicine. Why should this be?
Most businesses are involved with quality control. An industry based on this need exists. The reasons are obvious. If errors are not identified and resolved, then customers lose faith in the products and take their business elsewhere. However, in the medical industry, such concerns appear to be largely lacking. Use of systems like those of ISO, the primary quality standards agency, is lacking in nearly all hospitals.
Would you want to fly in a plane that was produced by a manufacturer without quality standards? That is the equivalent of what happens nearly every time someone enters a hospital. Our most precious possession, our health, is entrusted to a facility that does not deign to treat you as having as much value as a manufacturer's product.
The conclusion of the PubMed article states that "...the approach of identifying failures and redesigning faulty systems appears to be a more promising way to reduce human error." In other words, a solution to the incredibly high medication error rate lies in developing quality control systems.
The Number of People Harmed by Medication Errors
Thus far, we've addressed only the overall number of medication errors in hospitals. Another recent study addresses the number of ADEs (adverse drug events). A new method of identifying ADEs in hospital pediatrics was tested. Rather than assuming that self-reporting is accurate, the new method relies on triggers, events that are indicative of a bad drug reaction, such as the use of drug antidotes and results from lab tests.
The results were alarming. They found that about 15% of hospitalized children are harmed by ADEs. This is in sharp contrast to the results of self-reporting. The study indicates that only 4% of all adverse drug events are reported.
This is only one area of medical errors, drug events in hospitals. It doesn't get into sloppiness during surgeries, unneeded surgeries, failure of medical devices, adverse reactions or long term effects of vaccinations, or anything else. In this single area, it's obvious that the healthcare system is doing immense harm.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
The question is, what can you do about it? If you let the medical system do your thinking for you, then you look to it for solutions. Take a look at most patient support groups. They're full of people hoping that the medical system will do research on their particular problems. Even most groups that focus on iatrogenic issues, that is, doctor-induced errors, usually look to the system for a solution.
The solution does not exist within the medical system. That's the most important thing to comprehend. It is controlled by two things: pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, and the profit motive. Patients are not products on which the system makes money. Patients are the devices on which the system makes money.
Solutions exist outside the paradigm of the modern medical system, not within it. Take your health into your own hands as much as possible. Rely on the system for extremely acute care only, for things like serious accidents and heart attacks. In other words, limit your exposure.
Stop eating junk foods. Limit your exposure to toxins. Get good exercise. When you need healthcare, consider the enormous range of alternative practitioners. Most of them survive only if they're successful in treating you. Their fees are generally just a fraction of those charged by MDs, and they rely on word-of-mouth. If you don't get better, then you don't refer others to them.
This is the opposite of the motivation within the modern medical system, where keeping you healthy means that you leave the system, so that money stops flowing into it. Keeping you unhealthy is to their benefit. If a drug produces diabetes, as many do, you'll likely spend the rest of your life accepting their drugs and medical treatments for the damage to your system. If it damages your endocrine system, as steroids do, you may end up with Cushing's disease and a resultant heart attack.
At the earliest signs of problems, see an alternative holistic practitioner. Homeopaths, acupuncturists, and several others can help integrate emotional concerns and resolve many health problems before they become serious. If you have acne and take it seriously as indicative of an underlying condition -- which is in complete contrast to the medical system's treatment by simply suppressing the symptom –- you are far more likely to get at the root of the issue, resolving not only the symptom, acne, but also its causes. The result is genuine health, not simply the temporary suppression of symptoms.
From the studies noted here, it's clear that the modern medical system is not concerned with adverse events. If it were, then it would have instituted methods for limiting harm decades ago.
To have any hope of real health, you need to take your care into your own hands. Treat your mind and body as the most valuable things you own. They are. Take good care of them. Feed them well. Keep them active. Treat them gently with natural healing methods. Most people can avoid the trap of the medical system their entire lives with these simple, common sense, steps.
"Clinical review: Medication errors in critical care", by Eric Moyen, Eric Camiré, and Henry Thomas Stelfox (http://ccforum.com/content/12/2/208/?mkt=156312)
"Development, Testing, and Findings of a Pediatric-Focused Trigger Tool to Identify Medication-Related Harm in US Children's Hospitals", Glenn S. Takata, MD, Wilbert Mason, MD, MPG, Carol Taketomo, PharmD, Tina Logsdon, MS, Paul J. Sharek, MD, MPH ((http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/c...)