A recent study found some rather alarming news: Patients -- and their families -- are rarely told when a medication mistake is made in the hospital. This failure to disclose is also even more likely to happen in the intensive care units of hospitals, where many patients are in even more vulnerable states. These medication errors in some cases can wind up leading to death.
Researchers came to this conclusion by reviewing a database of 840,000 medication errors. These errors took place in 537 hospitals between 1999 and 2005.
From here it was found that 6.6 percent of the medication errors happened in ICUs. The rest happened in other units of the hospitals.
The good news is that the majority of these medication errors -- 98 percent -- did not cause harm to the patients. However, in the cases where harm was done, the patients in the ICU were more likely to have adverse reactions. This was not surprising given the state of many in the ICU.
In terms of when patients or their families were informed of these mistakes, researchers found that even though hospitals claim full disclosure, patients and family were actually only promptly informed about 2 percent of the time.
Of course for many this information is quite alarming. However, the lead author of the study said patients should not be overly worried and that studies such as these are good indicators of how hospitals are actually doing. The healthcare system is also actively trying to reduce the number of medication errors, he said, although as this study shows, nothing is fool proof.