State hospitals continue to wrestle with medical errors

I know from my years covering health care delivery that hospitals in Minnesota take medical errors very seriously. The annual MDH report on "adverse health care events" is something that draws both media and industry attention. Minnesota has been a leader in this area, and is one of only five states to report adverse events at a facility level.

This year's report is the usual mixed bag. Medical errors are rare, but in the 12 years the report has been compiled, we've seen some types of errors decrease, while other increase. This year, medication errors are getting more attention, as the 14 cases of death or serious injury due to medication errors is the highest number yet recorded since the reporting began. It's interesting to me that the Star Tribune article focuses on medication errors, while the Minnesota Department of Health release focuses much more on errors such as retained foreign objects after surgery, and falls.

The fact is the medication error number looks like a big jump, but it's still a very small number—14 adverse events—compared to the number of falls associated with death or injury (67). I suspect the medication error numbers simply aren't likely to get much smaller than low-double digits or single digits (in 2014, for example, there were seven serious injuries due to medication errors, and no deaths).

Despite the very true statement that even one error is too many, Minnesota hospitals are doing pretty well in this area. At the very least, they've shown a willingness to work hard to prevent errors, and to be held accountable when they happen. Non-related photo of the day, Minnehaha Falls after the thaw begins:

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