Medical errors can occur at any time—but a recent study raises the issue of whether patients in Maryland are at greater risk for Maryland medical errors on weekends than during the week. The study looked at all medication errors reported by healthcare practitioners over a two-year period at one hospital. There were 2,626 medical errors reported during the two-year period that that hospital alone. The most common sub-category of medical errors was prescribing errors, which amounted to 55% of all medical errors.
The study found statistically significant differences between many sub-categories of medical errors in day shifts and night shifts during weekdays and weekends. The medical errors were higher during the weekdays than during the weekends. But during the weekends, medical errors during the night shifts were more common than during the day shifts. The highest percentage of prescribing errors occurred on weekdays during night shifts (amounting to 77% and 79% of all errors). The study noted that other studies had found higher rates of medical errors during night shifts.
The study’s findings demonstrate that timing is an important factor in improving the use of medication and enhancing patient safety. The study reiterated that medication errors “are a serious public health problem that threatens patient safety and imposes substantial costs.” Medication errors are defined by the U.S. National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Preventing as “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer.”