Chronic Chronic Conditions Increase Hospital Errors

“Chronic conditions now affect 15 percent to 18 percent of children and teens, and even those estimates may not fully account for obesity and mental health woes, the Harvard team said.” –ABC News

It’s not really news that chronic conditions among our nation’s children are growing exponentially. We all know this, especially those of us within the Everything Birth Community. Many of us have our thoughts on why that is, but right now, that’s not what I want to discuss.

There’s another problem I want to bring to everyone’s attention. It’s kind of a big deal.

According to a news report this month, “Using a government database, researchers found that of children hospitalized in 38 U.S. states in 2006, 44 percent had at least one chronic health problem, such as asthma, a digestive disorder, diabetes or cancer. Among hospitalized kids with no chronic health problems, 1.3 percent were affected by a medical error; the figure among children with a chronic condition was just over five percent.”

To rephrase this information:

  • About 1/6th of our nation’s youth have a chronic health condition.
  • Of all children hospitalized in the US, about 44% percent of them have a chronic health condition.
  • About 1.3% of typically healthy children are victims of medical error while hospitalized.
  • Over 5% of chronically ill children are victims of medical error while hospitalized.

Sometimes these “errors” weren’t really “errors” but adverse reactions to procedures or medications. This tells me that if you are a parent with a chronically ill child, you  need to be a watchdog, asking questions about all medications and procedures. 5% is pretty high. It’s 1 out of every 20 chronically ill children. Don’t feel bad about asking questions of health professionals either.  The federal Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ) even suggests that parents of patients help protect their children by asking questions. They say that one step is to make sure that someone ( like your pediatrician) is coordinating all care that your child receives and is making sure the entire healthcare team is on the same page.

It’s a pretty serious situation when you consider a 1999 report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which found that medical errors kill nearly 98,000 people and that was before hospital acquired infections required absurdly potent drugs with serious side effects. These same people go on high alert when there’s an outbreak of chicken pox, so reminding them how many people are killed by medical errors annually may make them pause and take you seriously.

In addition, if you have a chronically ill child, keep a list of all medications, supplements, and treatments that your child takes and any medications your child has had a previous reaction to. Be sure to double check your child’s hospital charts that everything was put in properly. Generally, hospital computers will have a flagging system in place for potential drug interactions, but you can’t be remiss in checking. When I saw my hospital records after a long stay in the hospital from a Bactrim allergy, I was shocked to find they still hadn’t entered my allergy into the computer properly. They wrongfully recorded that I was allergic to a different drug- the only one that actually helped me.  This is too common of a problem. When it’s your child, leave no room for mistakes.

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