Higher Rates of Medical Errors Occur in Children with ‘Complex’ Conditions
Fewer than 3% of hospitalized children in the United States experience medical errors, but errors occur in 11% of children with "complex medical conditions," such as organ transplants and cancer, according to a study published in Pediatrics, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. Based on data from 1988, 1991, 1994 and 1997 from about 900 hospitals involving more than 1 million children each year, researchers found that most errors were caused by "procedural complications," such as mechanical problems with ventilators or breathing tubes (Tanner, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 3/2). In addition to children with complex cases, higher rates of medical errors were found in boys, children from families with higher incomes and children who received care in urban hospitals, the Washington Post reports (Vedantam, Washington Post, 3/3). Although deaths were more common among children who had experienced medical errors, Dr. Jill Joseph, co-author and professor of pediatrics at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., said it is not known whether the errors caused the deaths (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 3/2). The Post reports that it is unclear whether higher medical error rates among children with more complex medical problems are caused by longer hospital stays that provide more opportunity for error or by the complex nature of the illnesses (Washington Post, 3/3). Children's National Medical Center's Dr. Anthony Slonim, who led the study, said the new research will help health care providers "target a group of children who may be at particular risk" and "create systems that will provide safeguards" to prevent errors (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 3/2). The study is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.