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Overview of medical errors and adverse events

Maité Garrouste-Orgeas12*, François Philippart134, Cédric Bruel1, Adeline Max1, Nicolas Lau1 and B Misset13

Author Affiliations

1 Réanimation médico-chirurgicale, Groupe Hospitalier Paris Saint Joseph, Paris, France

2 Université Joseph Fourier, Unité INSERM, Epidémiologie des cancers et des maladies sévères, Institut Albert Bonniot, La Tronche, France

3 Medicine Faculty, Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France

4 Infection and Epidemiology department Pasteur Institut, Paris, France

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Annals of Intensive Care 2012, 2:2  doi:10.1186/2110-5820-2-2

Published: 16 February 2012


Safety is a global concept that encompasses efficiency, security of care, reactivity of caregivers, and satisfaction of patients and relatives. Patient safety has emerged as a major target for healthcare improvement. Quality assurance is a complex task, and patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) are more likely than other hospitalized patients to experience medical errors, due to the complexity of their conditions, need for urgent interventions, and considerable workload fluctuation. Medication errors are the most common medical errors and can induce adverse events. Two approaches are available for evaluating and improving quality-of-care: the room-for-improvement model, in which problems are identified, plans are made to resolve them, and the results of the plans are measured; and the monitoring model, in which quality indicators are defined as relevant to potential problems and then monitored periodically. Indicators that reflect structures, processes, or outcomes have been developed by medical societies. Surveillance of these indicators is organized at the hospital or national level. Using a combination of methods improves the results. Errors are caused by combinations of human factors and system factors, and information must be obtained on how people make errors in the ICU environment. Preventive strategies are more likely to be effective if they rely on a system-based approach, in which organizational flaws are remedied, rather than a human-based approach of encouraging people not to make errors. The development of a safety culture in the ICU is crucial to effective prevention and should occur before the evaluation of safety programs, which are more likely to be effective when they involve bundles of measures.