CHENNAI: Medical errors cause the third highest number of deaths after heart diseases and accidents according to studies in USA; overworked staff is a major reason for errors. These pertinent points were made by Dr Bala Ramachandran, the medical director of the Chennai-based Kanchi Kamakoti Child Trust hospital on Saturday.
Delivering the 19th V Venugopal Endowment lecture at the Sankar Nethralaya, Ramachandran, the HOD of the Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine Unit, detailed out a series of solutions for eliminating medical errors.
“Hiring adequate staff, ensuring cleanliness and well lit places, and administering a culture of safety at all levels in a hospital could bring down medical errors.” He added that medical errors should not be attributed to a single person as it occurred due to a system failure.
He pointed out to American surveys which noted that there was a significant drop in the errors when the work-hours of doctors and medical staff were limited. However, he noted that it would be a difficult situation here, as India lacked the numbers of staff and doctors. Almost all case studies quoted by the doctor had figures from USA as no data from India was available due to lack of reporting systems.
Displaying evidence of illegible hand-writing of doctors, he pointed out how it could lead to wrongful medication. “Having a computerised system or training the doctors to write legibly can solve this problem easily,” he said.
In USA, Ramachandran noted, there was a system of mandatory reporting to track medical errors. But such a system would not work in India, he added. “In India, doctors might not want to admit mistakes fearing litigation. There should be non punitive confidential reporting focused on improving things and not punishment,” he said.
However, in case of mistakes, Ramachandran said that relatives of the patient should be informed and the cost of error should be removed from the bill.