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Linda Chalat
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New Tool Targets Hospital Error Rates

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Researchers looking at the rate of hospital errors contend that a new method for identifying medical errors shows that as many as 90 percent of hospital mistakes are overlooked. The new study used a new comprehensive review method of hospital records, called the Global Trigger Tool. This tool demonstrated that the actual error rate is 10 times greater than previously thought, despite a recent focus on reducing error rates and improving patient safety.

One factor in the high number of errors is that hospital patients tend to be sicker than in previous years – outpatient treatment facilities allow healthier patients avoid hospital stays. And, better methods exist for detecting errors.

Most hospitals rely on voluntary error-reporting systems or coding systems that utilize records on patients’ charts, as recommended by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

For the study, published in the April issue of Health Affairs, the research team compared the Global Trigger Tool with the methods recommended by the AHRQ. Applying both tools to 795 patient records, the researchers found the AHRQ methods identified 35 errors, while the Global Trigger Tool found 354 errors.

These findings are conservative, the researchers pointed out, because the error rate is based on a review of medical records, which cannot identify as many errors as direct, real-time observation.

Medication errors were most common, followed by errors in surgical and nonsurgical procedures and in common infections. The researchers observed that these findings are conservative, because the error rate is based on a review of medical records, which cannot identify as many errors as direct, real-time observation.

The Global Trigger Tool takes more time and resources than other methods, the researchers said. However, it could become part of electronic medical record systems, which would integrate it easily into the hospital and it can be used by any hospital.