Cancer care

9 common medical oncology errors revealed

Healthcare errors in medical oncology are common and often go unreported, a study from the University of Newcastle, NSW, has found.

In a survey of 97 oncology nurses, two thirds (67%) said they had experienced or witnessed a healthcare error in the past six months.

While most of the errors were ‘near miss’ incidents with no adverse consequences for patients, more than a third resulted in a mild level of harm for patients and 7% had moderate harmful effects. None caused serious harm.

The most common errors were related to administration of chemotherapy and they were most likely to occur in the outpatient clinic (38%) rather than on an inpatient ward (31%).

  1. Chemotherapy 23.1%
  2. Documentation error 18.5%
  3. Error in procedure or surgery 15.4%
  4. Given medication at wrong time or wrong dose 6.2%
  5. Radiation therapy error 6.2%
  6. Patient diagnosis 4.6%
  7. Given wrong medication type 3.1%
  8. Given medication to wrong patient 3.1%
  9. Given medication via wrong route 1.5%

Doctors were most commonly responsible (42%) for the healthcare errors, followed by other nurses (39%) whereas patients and the hospital were responsible for around 6% of errors, respectively.

And although system were in place for reporting and acting on healthcare errors, only half  resulted in healthcare staff giving an explanation of why the event occurred in

an open and honest way. Similarly only about half of healthcare errors resulted in patients and families receiving an apology and being given an opportunity to ask questions and get more information.

“Healthcare team responses to errors are inconsistent with best practice open disclosure standards,” wrote the study authors in the European Journal of Oncology Nursing.

“Strategies to reduce occurrence of healthcare errors, and improve healthcare error measurement and response of the health system, including adherence to open disclosure standards, should include: nurse education and training; audit and feedback; role modelling; anonymous reporting options; legal protection and clear guidelines,” they advised.

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