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Tag: Errors

On the Preventability of Lethal Errors: A Response to Dr. Koka

In my opinion, the title of Dr. Koka’s post (“Very Bad Numbers“) is far too inflammatory for a subject that needs to be taken seriously. Dr. Koka’s summary of the approach I took in my JPS study is a reasonable summary, minus a few key points. Preventability of lethal errors is the problematic issue. The nine authors of the Classen paper did postulate that virtually all serious adverse events they found are preventable; I did not pull this out of the air. Preventability is a highly subjective area. A few years ago everyone assumed that hospital acquired infections were simply the cost of doing business. Now we know that the majority of infections can be prevented. The major difference Dr. Kota and I have is that he wants to rely exclusively on the Landrigan study, which is an excellent and large study, but it is not representative of the nation. It represented hospitals in North Carolina. That state was chosen because it was much more aggressive in efforts to reduce medical harm than the average state in the nation. The OIG study (2010) was in fact an attempt to be representative of the Medicare population across the country, but it is just Medicare beneficiaries. As I noted in my paper, none of the four studies can stand alone, not even the Landrigan paper.Continue reading…

Computer Error or Patient-Centered Care?

In my last two posts I tell my story of trying to speed up a six-hour infusion of intravenous medication by correcting a “computer error”; a “failure to update reference information” in the computer available to the nurses. My first clue was the discrepancy between the medication’s package insert and the computer information. Discussion with the infusion nurses and a call to the Hospital’s chief pharmacist caused a review of the computer info, the package insert, and the hospital’s Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee minutes.

The package insert stated that “after the initial 30 minutes without a side-effect the infusion rate could be gradually increased to the maximum rate.” The infusion nurses’ interpretation of “gradually” was a infusion rate step-up every 30 minutes resulting in a six-hour infusion. My preference was for a two hour infusion. I looked diligently, and in vain, for the manufacturer’s definition of “gradually”, so I called its 800 number . A very knowledgeable and accommodating RN in the Professional Services Department ( I identified myself as a physician) explained that they did not define “gradually”  because they wished “not to be too proscribing, realized that individual patients varied, and respected each facility’s responsibility to set their own protocols.” It sounded like pretty good risk management (avoidance of increased liability) to me.  She went on to say that many facilities had used a rate step-up schedule of 15 minutes rather than 30 minutes without increased side-effects and offered to send us the articles describing this.

Going to a step-up rate 0f every 15 minutes rather than 30 minutes would result in a four and a half hour infusion instead of a six hour one; still longer than my initially hoped-for two hours. Could the change in duration be labeled a triumph of “patient-centered care”? If so, was it worth all the time and effort?Continue reading…

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