When a child is admitted to a hospital, some will experience an adverse medical event in the hospital. An adverse medical event is any harm to a patient as a result of medical care. Of those adverse events, 60% are preventable according to a recent Canadian investigation. A preventable medical mistake is one where medical malpractice occurred, meaning the care provided fell below the standard of care. Despite these adverse events at children's hospitals, most are not even recorded in the child's medical chart.
The Canadian Medical Journal recently published an investigation into adverse events involving children at children's hospitals. The purpose of the investigation was to determine if Canada's adverse event reporting system incorporating families would result in any changes reported by healthcare professionals. The belief was that medical professionals would be more likely to report adverse events involving hospitalized children if parents were also documenting these events. However, the investigation showed medical professionals failed to report the overwhelming majority of adverse events involving children.
At British Columbia's Children's Hospital, families of 554 children were included in the investigation. These children were admitted as inpatients in the hospital for a variety of medical needs, including surgery and general medical care. According to the investigation, 37 percent of families documented at least one adverse event or near miss during their child's hospitalization. The adverse events reported included medication errors such as mistaken dosages, adverse reactions, equipment problems, communication problems among staff, and treatment complications. Of the 37% of adverse events or near misses reported by parents, only 2.5% were actually documented by medical staff. According to the investigation, nearly half of the 37% of reported adverse events involved valid concerns rather than mere dissatisfaction.
Giving parents the opportunity to report adverse events in hospitals involving their children is not an idea unique to Canada. According to Dr. Charles Vincent and Dr. Rachel Davis of Imperial College in London England, parents concerns about what happens to their children in hospitals can be a very valuable method of assessing hospital safety. As they explain, "[p]aying close attention to parents' and families experiences of care and their reports of safety issues may be the best early warning system we have for detecting the point at which poor care deteriorates into care that is clearly dangerous."
Medical News Today, Adverse Events In Hospitalized Kids, Families Report Details Not Documented By Health Care Providers, November 28, 2011.
Department of Health And Human Services, Adverse Events In Hospitals: Overview Of Key Issues, December 2008.