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Drug errors main result of distractions at hospitals

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted March 25, 2013

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More than 1,000 hospital incident reports to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority in 2010 and 2011 were related to distractions and interruptions, according to an advisory released by the state agency in March.

The overwhelming majority of the incidents did not result in harm to patients, but 13 cases did lead to mistakes that caused temporary or permanent injury. Sixty percent of the incidents involved mistakes of drug administration; 28% were linked to surgical or testing mistakes, such as imaging the wrong body site; and the remainder were related to other kinds of care.

Distractions can come from technological reminders, phone calls and face-to-face interactions with colleagues and patients. Hospitals should teach staff how to minimize the risk of distractions by avoiding low-priority issues “when performing tasks with high cognitive loads” such as preoperative timeouts, said the report (link).

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