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Study Finds 45% of Harm in Pediatric Inpatient Settings May be Preventable

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Medical research has attempted to develop programs and processes for preventing patient harm, one example of which is the use of trigger tools. By understanding the instances and causes of adverse events, hospitals, doctors and other medical professionals can attempt to improve patient care. However, much of this work has concentrated on adult patients, with fewer studies geared toward children. In response, one study investigated the prevalence of patient harm in pediatric inpatient healthcare settings, as well as the most common causes of harm to children receiving inpatient care. Researchers found that 45 percent of these events were likely or definitely preventable.

Detecting Harm in Children’s Hospitals

The study, published in the Journal Pediatrics, sought to develop a reliable mechanism through which to measure harm caused by negligent medical care in pediatrics. Entitled “A Trigger Tool to Detect Harm in Pediatric Inpatient Settings,” researchers used an existing trigger tool developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) to develop a similar tool that could be applied in the pediatric setting.

The IHI developed a Global Trigger Tool for Measuring Adverse Events to identify harm caused to patients and to track changes in adverse events over time. A trigger tool reviews a random sample of hospital medical records and employs what are known as “triggers” to pinpoint potential instances of patient harm. The goal of the Global Trigger Tool is to provide necessary information for improving patient safety and care among healthcare providers.

Prior to the use of mechanisms like trigger tools, the vast majority of adverse events have been self-reported by doctors and hospitals. These numbers have been catastrophically lower than the reality, showing approximately 2 to 8 percent all of patient harms. In fact, researchers have found that only 10 to 20 percent of medical errors are ever reported and, among those, 90 to 95 percent cause no harm to patients.

Adverse Medical Events in Childhood

In this study, the IHI Global Trigger Tool was modified to apply in inpatient pediatric settings and subsequently used to evaluate 600 randomly selected pediatric records. The patients included in the sample were discharged in February 2012 from 6 different children’s hospitals, each of which provided 100 charts. The results of the study were extremely informative. Consider the following:

  • 240 harmful events were identified among 600 pediatric medical records
  • The rate of adverse events was 40 per 100 patients and 54.9 harms per 1000 patient days 
  • 24.3 percent of children suffered at least one harmful event 
  • 108 of the 240 pediatric harms were potentially or definitely preventable, accounting for 45 percent 

Among the medical records in the sample, the leading causes of harm to children were respiratory distress, intravenous catheter infiltrations/burns, pain, constipation, and surgical complications. Overall, researchers affirmed the earlier finding that harm occurs more often in hospitalized children than adults.

Did Your Child Suffer Harm in a New Jersey Hospital?

Although overwhelming for anyone, it’s all the more devastating when your child is one of the faces behind the numbers. If your child suffered an injury, illness, or condition resulting from medical negligence in a New Jersey hospital, it is highly advisable to consult with an attorney. You and your child have legal options and may be able to recover damages for medical expenses, future care, physical pain, and the emotional distress caused by medical professionals’ mistakes. Contact us today for additional information and a free consultation about your child’s unique situation. Simply call 866-708-8617 or reach out online today.

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