Medical Errors More Common When Child Has Chronic Illnesses

A recent study using government data from 2006 revealed that children with chronic illnesses were more likely to be victims of medical errors than children without these illnesses. Chronic illnesses include asthma, cancer, diabetes, digestive disorders and others.

The study looked at children hospitalized in 38 states during 2006. Of these children, 44 percent were already afflicted with one or more chronic illnesses. Just over 5 percent of these children were affected by a medical error.

Of the children that did not have chronic illnesses, only 1.3 percent suffered from a hospital error. The study also found that the more illnesses a child had, the more likely it was that the child would be affected by a medical error.

Researchers were not surprised by these results. Children with chronic illnesses usually have longer and more frequent hospital stays than healthier children. It makes sense that they would be more affected by errors simply due to the frequency of their hospital visits.

The errors considered in the study were not always mistakes made by doctors and nurses. Rather, the study included errors due to complications from procedures and potentially avoidable aliments such as bedsores or surgery-related infections.

Researchers hope that the study will make people more aware of the greater risks that children with chronic illnesses face. They hope that awareness will make everyone involved in a child’s care vigilant.

Parents and caretakers of chronically ill children need to aware of the risks. These children can be better protected if caretakers are confident about asking questions of medical professionals. It is also important that one doctor coordinates a child’s overall health care plan.

Source: Reuters Health, “More hospital errors when kids have chronic ills,” Amy Norton, September 11, 2012.