Hospital medical mistakes up, patient harm down

Serious medical mistakes at Minnesota hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers rose slightly to 316 in 2011, up from 305 in 2010, according to an annual report released yesterday by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

The good news is that patient harm from adverse events dropped from 107 in 2010 to 89 last year, the lowest level in four years.

"We're making some incredibly good progress in most areas," said state Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger, reported the Pioneer Press. "And we're identifying some areas where we need to continue to focus some of our attention."

The main barriers to patient safety included pressure ulcers and wrong procedures, which drove the overall increase in medical mistakes. Minnesota hospitals reported 141 cases of pressure ulcers, up 19 percent from 2010. Wrong procedures jumped 63 percent to 26 events.

Miscommunication between clinics and hospitals when scheduling surgeries can lead to such medical mistakes, Minnesota Hospital Association President and CEO Lawrence Massa told The Associated Press.

The report shows that simply reminding staff to do the right thing isn't enough to prevent patient harm. "To truly change practice, providers need to adopt solutions involving modifications in workflow or workspaces, staff roles, technology, team dynamics and organizational culture. But to do this successfully, leadership needs to be fully engaged," MDH Director of Health Policy Division Diane Rydrych said in a statement yesterday.

With patient safety in mind, some hospitals are conducting safety checklists prior to each surgery, as well as routinely repositioning and monitoring patients to prevent pressure ulcers, noted the AP.

Hospital checklists have helped providers reduce infection rates, save money and cut the risk of death for surgical patients practically in half.

For more information:
- read the Associated Press article
- check out the Pioneer Press article
- here's the MDH press release