Patients Safety: Barriers and Medical Errors

Patients’ safety is fundamental in the healthcare industry; according to the World Health Organization, medical practitioners need to enact policies that ensure quality and safety is maintained in health facilities. Patients safety include mechanisms of reporting, analysis, and prevention of medical error; it is a professional ethics that every practitioner is expected to respect and uphold. The discipline of patients’ safety took center stage in the late 1990s when there was an increasing concern of adverse medical effects on patients resulting from medical errors. The system aims at improving the quality and precision of medical practitioners and ensuring that they offer quality and reliable service to their patients (Amalberti, Auroy, Berwick & Barach, 2005). At Veterans Affairs Hospital, the health care facilities has the main objective of offering quality, timely, and affordable medical services; to attain this paramount objective, the facility has a patient safety policy where they ensure that medical personnel make accurate decisions when handling a case. One case that the facility deals with on almost daily is diabetes cases, dues to the number there have been some complaints that some patients have been kept under medication of the disease instead of looking for other ways of curing the vise (VA Hospital Official Website, 2011).

Causes of medical errors

Although according to the medical profession, medical practitioners are expected to have high accuracy and should make conclusions with the highest precision as possible, some instances that lead to medical error, they include:

Human factors

Practitioners are people who can be affected by human factors that can reduce their accuracy, the main factors include ignorance, fatigue, and depression, facing diverse patients but not admitting that the condition is beyond their control, unfamiliar settings, and time pressures. Other than these factors, there are incidences that practitioners may not have been adequately trained, this may result to errors as they face situations that they cannot handle.

Medical complexity

This occurs when a patient suffers from the medication that he has been placed at; for example, the patient may be placed under very strong medication or prolonged stay in the facilities like ICU or HDU, the net effect is a patient who suffers medical errors.

System failures

System failures take different forms, they are those activities that happen within a medical facility that hinder the delivery of quality, timely and effective medical services. This include, labeling problems of medication that may result to a customer getting the wrong medication, miscommunication or mix-up of medical results, redundancy in technology adopted, and poor interrogation of patients (Dean & Sack, 2008).

Systemic barriers to providing safe care

The organizational structure of a medical facility as well as the normal operation may result in failure in the delivery of quality and safe medical care facilities. There are incidences that the systems may lead to fatigued employees who fail to make sound decisions; for example in the pharmaceutical department, if the medication are not well labeled, then there are high chances that a patient will get that medication that does not fit his disease.

Internal leadership may have some negative effects on delivery of quality medication; this happens when there are unclear lines of authority of physicians, nurses, and other care providers; when the medical staffs are not effectively managed, then the result is demotivated staffs that are more likely to make medical errors.

Other than the human part of it, there are times that the facility may be lacking quality physical facilities that can support the delivery of quality medication. For example there may be some laboratory results that take a long period before they have been released causing the tests to be distorted or to record a very different reading that it would at an ideal situation. This leads to distortion of accuracy.

Systems changes, policies, or procedures VA hospitals has adopted to reduce medical errors

In the efforts of maintaining patients’ safety, VA has come up with strategies that address the operating system in the facilities. For example, the medical facility has attained high quality and efficient facilities that can guarantee some precision when a certain test is taken with them. The infrastructures are managed and controlled by experts in the area and are regularly serviced.

The human resources department at VA is robust and ensures that human capital matters have been looked into; in this context, the department ensures that medical practitioners are highly motivated and undergo a number of trainings to improve their efficiency and effectiveness. Every section is maintained on its own and best practice policies enacted, for example in the pharmaceuticals, the number of hours that an attendant should serve are well managed to ensure that he or she does not get fatigued in a way that can lead to errors (Felland, Cunningham, Cohen, November & Quinn, 2010).

In cases where drugs name look alike, the facility has adopted a decentralization medication policy; this is where they ensure that some of the medication are kept under lock and key to with guidelines to differentiate the medication. All drugs are well labeled (VA Hospital Official Website, 2011).


Amalberti, R. Auroy, Y., Berwick, D., & Barach, P. (2005). System Barriers to Achieving Ultrasafe Health Care. Annals of Internal Medicine, 142 (9), p. 756.

Dewan, S., & Sack, K. (2008). A Safety-Net Hospital Falls Into Financial Crisis. The New York Times. Web.

Felland, L., Cunningham,.P, Cohen, G., November, E. ,& Quinn, B. (2010). The Economic Recession: Early Impacts on Health Care Safety Net Providers. Research Brief, 15. Center for Studying Health System Change. Web

VA Hospital Offical Website.(2011). Veteran Affairs Hospital. Web.

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