About 44 in 100 pediatric inpatients suffer from chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy and cancer, according to the journal Pediatrics. And these sick kids are more likely to experience a medical error during the course of their treatment than patients who are seen for acute conditions.
In the study, medical errors were defined as abnormal complications to a specific medical procedure, adverse reactions to medications, infections and bedsores. But it is unclear how severe the medical mistakes were or if they caused significant or long-term harm.
Logic tells you that the increase in probability of a medical error is higher in someone who’s chronically ill—after all, the longer someone’s hospitalized and the worse his or her condition is, the higher the chances of complications from it. Duration and difficulty make treatment more challenging and exposure to infectious agents more likely.
The study involved 38 states in the 2006 Kids’ Inpatient Database (KID) to determine medical error rates. As reported on AboutLawsuits.com, not only was the medical error rate higher per 100 hospital discharges in children with chronic illnesses, but it was also higher per 1,000 inpatient days in children with chronic conditions.
In the 2006 KID:
more than 22 in 100 pediatric inpatients had one chronic condition;
nearly 10 in 100 had two chronic conditions;
12 in 100 had more than three chronic conditions.
The researchers said that as many as 43 in 100 U.S. children have at least one chronic health condition, and almost 20 in 100 have two. These patients represent an increasing proportion of pediatric hospitalization, and account for the majority of noninjury hospital admissions. Children with special medical needs also are more susceptible to errors in emergency situations.
A report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found that nearly 98,000 people die in hospitals each year from a medical error that could have been prevented.
The message of the Pediatrics study was simple: The more chronic conditions a child suffers, the greater the likelihood that an error will occur when they are in the hospital. And the greater the need for parents to be strong patient advocates. To learn how, see our newsletter, “Protecting a Loved One in the Hospital.”