Errors in medical care affect 10 percent of patients worldwide, according to the United Nations health agency, which issued a checklist on Wednesday to help doctors and nurses avoid common mistakes.
The nine key points listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) include double-checking similar-sounding medication names, ensuring patients are correctly identified and improving hand hygiene to avoid preventable infections.
“Health care errors affect one in every 10 patients around the world,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a statement. “Implementing these solutions is a way to improve patient safety.”
The WHO urged health workers to improve communication and assure medication accuracy during transitions in patient care, carefully control concentrated electrolyte solutions, avoid misconnections in catheters and other tubing, use injecting devices only once, and ensure the correct procedure is performed at the right place on the body.
Liam Donaldson, chair of the WHO’s World Alliance for Patient Safety and Chief Medical Officer for Britain, said the checklist should help reduce “the unacceptably high number of medical injuries around the world.”
At any one time, some 1.4 million people worldwide suffer from hospital-acquired infections, according to WHO figures. One in every 136 patients in the United States becomes severely ill as a result of an infection caught in hospital.
“Wrong site procedures” on the body — including errors about the side, organ, implant or person to be operated upon — are infrequent but not rare, the agency said, citing communication breakdowns as the cause of many of these.
Unsafe medical injections, with reused and unsterilized equipment, are believed to occur most often in South Asia, the Middle East and the Western Pacific, a region including China, Japan, Vietnam and Australia.
In sub-Saharan Africa, as many as 18 percent of injections are given with reused syringes or unsterilized needles, increasing the risk of hepatitis and HIV, the WHO said.