Medical errors higher for chronically ill children

There's No Substitute for Experience

A recent study examining kids with chronic illnesses compared to those kids without illnesses found that those children who have health problems are at a higher risk of falling victim to a medical error in the hospital.

The study, which appeared in the journal Pediatrics, found that 44 percent of the children hospitalized in 38 states in 2006 suffered from at least one chronic health problem. These types of chronic health problems include illnesses and conditions such as diabetes, asthma and cancer.

Among those children with at least one chronic illness, the medical error rate was around 3 percent. For those children with two or more illnesses, the medical error rate increased and was closer to 7 percent. For children with no illnesses, the medical error rate was lower at just 1.3 percent.

Researchers said they are not surprised by the results of the study and actually expected the rate to be even higher among children with illnesses. The truth is those children tend to be hospitalized more frequently than those without chronic conditions.

When looking at what counts as a medical error, while this study was not clear on how serious the error was or what the repercussions were for the child, typically some of the most common medical errors reported in hospitals are bedsores, infections after surgery and adverse reactions to certain medications.

The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which has been providing funds to initiatives aimed at preventing medical errors and improving patient safety, said it's crucial for parents to be communicating with a child's doctor to make sure everyone is on the same page. Way too often, due to the fragmented healthcare system, errors happen as medical staff members are not acting as a cohesive team.

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