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World Health Organization Reports that Medical Errors Affect One in Ten Patients

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According to the World Health Organization, healthcare errors affect one out of every ten patients worldwide. Based on this alarming trend, the World Health Organization prepared patient safety checklists to help professional healthcare providers avoid simple medical mistakes. By following the “Nine Patient Safety Solutions,” the organization hopes to see substantial medical error rate reductions. The the nine safety solutions relate to the following:

1. Look-alike, sound-alike medication names;

2. patient identification;

3. communication during patient hand-overs;

4. performance of correct procedure at correct body site;

5. control of concentrated electrolyte solutions;

6. assuring medication accuracy at transitions in care;

7. avoiding catheter and tubing misconnections;

8. single use of injection devices; and

9. improved hand hygiene to prevent health care-associated infection.

In the past, I have commented on medication errors as a source of potentially severe problems in our healthcare system. The World Health Organization recognized this problem worldwide, included in its recent report a discussion about medication errors, and recommended error reduction strategies as its top patient safety priority. The organization proposes creating a systems approach to medication administration. Requiring redundant error checks in the medication distribution system before a patient actually receives drug therapy can minimize the possibility of medication error and in the long run improves overall patient safety. By the way, the World Health Organization considered neither medical nor pharmacy malpractice reform as a patient safety improvement technique or strategy. I believe the organization realizes that malpractice reform does not improve patient safety and may in fact accomplish the opposite result. Kudos to the World Health Organization for focusing on real patient safety and error reduction strategies and staying away from political rhetoric.