Colored vests, ultraviolet light among efforts to reduce medical errors

The increase in medical errors in the U.S. has prompted one U.S. Senator to take action. Many hospitals have implemented mitigation efforts as a result of her efforts.

According to one U.S. Senator, the number of deaths attributed to medical errors in the United States is equivalent to killing hundreds of passengers in a jumbo jet airplane crash every single day. But sadly, such a statistic goes largely unnoticed. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) hopes to change that.

In 2013, she and her staff researched and compiled a list of the most prevalent, worst medical errors that occur in the U.S. In April of this year, she released a detailed report. An updated version was provided earlier this month.

The initial action

Boxer's efforts to dig deeper into the rising problem of medical errors was prompted after meeting with a family who was grieving after they lost their child to a medical error.

In early 2013, Boxer and her staff began investigating U.S. medical errors with the ultimate goal to put together a single, comprehensive list of the most prevalent, harmful ones. But to their surprise, there were a lot more errors than predicted. In fact, according to Boxer, there were enough errors to put into many lists.

Thereafter, Boxer turned to federal officials to put together one, uniform list. In the summer of 2013, the Partnership for Patients (a collaboration made up of nurses, doctors, hospitals, and governmental entities that works to enhance the quality of healthcare) eventually released the nine most prevalent medical mistakes.

Surgical infections, pneumonia from ventilators, blood clots, drug-related events, and urinary tract infections from catheter problems were among those on the final list.

2014 action

In February 2014, Boxer and her staff contacted over 200 hospitals and invited them to take part in implementing protocols to mitigate the medical errors on the list released by the collaboration.

"We have the opportunity to save not just one life, but to save hundreds of thousands of lives," she said.

Much to her surprise, many hospitals agreed. This past April, Boxer released a report that provided details on specific measures these hospitals were in the process of executing.

Updated report

Since the first contact 5 months ago, an additional 94 hospitals have jumped on board and implemented their own measures to mitigate adverse events. On July 2, Boxer released an updated report. The new report provides a new list on new steps hospitals are taking.

Specific measures

A program employed at Kaiser Permanente-the largest MCO in the U.S.-is gaining widespread attention. Nurses in charge of dispensing drugs now wear colored sashes or vests. The practice helps identify these individuals to other medical professionals and essentially warns them against disrupting the staff while on duty.

At UCLA Medical Center, hospitals are now disinfecting rooms with ultraviolet lighting. The Center also bans doctors, nurses, and hospital staff who come to work with open wounds from assisting in surgical procedures to reduce the potential spread of infection.

These and many other measures are being instigated in various hospitals thanks to Senator Boxer and her push for reform.

Hopefully, public awareness about the problem with unnecessary medical errors in the U.S. will continue to gain widespread attention and encourage other hospitals to implement similar strategies.

Keywords: medical errors, mitigation, hospital action