Patients in the intensive-care unit of a large teaching hospital have a 1-in-5 chance of experiencing an adverse event during their treatment, according to a new study published in the August issue of Critical Care Medicine, the journal of the Society of Critical Care Medicine.
Researchers documented 120 adverse events in 79 patients, or about 20% of patients whose care was studied. About 13% of the adverse events were either fatal or life-threatening and 45% were deemed preventable. Using data from the study, the researchers estimated that almost 150,000 life-threatening errors occur annually in teaching hospitals.
Lead author Jeffrey Rothschild, M.D., said in a press statement that the research showed there were "opportunities for improvement using information technology, improving communication among physicians and between nurses and physicians, and paying more attention to preventing hospital-acquired infections." Rothschild is an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
The errors and adverse events reported in the study were found through direct observation by on-site physician-researchers, chart review, voluntary and solicited reports, and a computerized adverse drug-event monitor.