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Attitudes Toward Medical Device Use Errors and the Prevention of Adverse Events

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Background: The design of a device's user interface often contributes to the chance of a user making an error in using the device. However, there is evidence that most such errors that occur in practice are attributed solely to the user and that the primary method of error prevention is to retrain the user. Yet this attitude may decrease the quality of error reports and the use of more effective error prevention strategies. A qualitative study was conducted to assess health care employees' attitudes toward device use errors and the prevention of adverse events.

Methods: Twenty-six health care employees from three hospital systems, including 11 device users and 15 nonusers who had participated in infusion pump purchasing decisions were given a scenario describing a device use error involving an infusion pump. Several open-ended questions assessed what they felt led to the event and how they would prevent the event from reccurring.

Results: The top three reported types of factors leading to the adverse event, in decreasing order of frequency, were the user, pump design problems, and lack of training. The top three prevention strategies reported by the participants were retraining the user, redesigning the device, and telling the user to be careful.

Discussion: These results suggest that health care employees still put too much emphasis on the traditional view of blaming and retraining the user.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-11-01

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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