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Children with chronic illnesses may be at risk for medical errors

Researchers from one Nationwide Children's Hospital wanted to know what percentage of medical errors happened among children with chronic illnesses versus children with non-chronic illnesses. Using a government database they got their answer, but it was an answer with which they were not surprised.

According to their findings, children suffering from chronic illnesses that required extended hospitalization were nearly four times more likely to encounter medical errors than a child visiting on a one time basis. This is likely no comfort to families in New Jersey, and elsewhere, who may have a child hospitalized at this very moment.

Among the most common mistakes that hospital's reported were adverse reactions to medications, infections following surgery, and bedsores, which researchers say are all potentially preventable. Though the study did not come across clear findings on serious medical errors and their relation to chronic illness, it can be assumed that there may have been potential links between the two at some point.

Hospital staff and researchers point out that many medical errors happen when the child has more than one symptom or condition. In children exhibiting multiple chronic illnesses the rate of error increased by nearly double. Many people contribute this to the number of symptoms that can overlap between illnesses that may make diagnosis more difficult or could lead to cases of medical malpractice.

In an effort to reduce the number of medical mistakes, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has been funding projects to improve patients' safety, and suggests, in order to decrease the number of mistakes caused by miscommunications, to have your child's pediatrician coordinate information so that everyone can be on the same page.

Source: Reuters News, "More hospital errors when kids have chronic ills," Amy Norton, Sept. 11, 2012

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