Causes of Medical Errors

Poor communication

Communication breakdowns contribute to medical errors. Communication is vital because it facilitates coordination among doctors, nurses, patients, and families. Each party plays an integral part in realizing health outcomes, and failure to incorporate their input is detrimental. For example, inadequate communication between healthcare providers and patients and their families might result in an inaccurate diagnosis. Likewise, faulty communication, including illegible paper records, cause misinterpretation, resulting in mistakes. 


Working for long hours causes fatigue and low concentration, increasing the likelihood of a medical error. Heavy workload forces healthcare providers such as doctors and nurses to work extra shifts. In such situations, practitioners are extremely tired and dizzy, rendering them prone to mistakes due to low concentration and the inability to focus on a task. For example, a tired surgeon is likely to commit a medical error when operating a patient. Fatigue causes medical errors in healthcare the same way it causes road accidents.    

Lack of experience

Another reason why medical errors occur is the lack of experience and knowledge. Many healthcare providers, especially fresh graduates, do not possess the skills to respond to certain conditions. Inexperienced doctors and nurses are likely to commit medical errors when attending to a patient with an illness they do not understand. Experienced practitioners are exposed to diverse medical problems, empowering them to respond to any condition without challenges. Such eliminate medical errors. In contrast, inexperienced clinicians exploit the try and error method to treat particular ailments, resulting in mistakes.

Technical failures

Technical failures include problems with medical devices, implants, and equipment. Errors are prone to arise when equipment or a device fails during a medical procedure. Furthermore, technical difficulties affecting electronic health records disrupt information flow, creating confusion. Such can cause a doctor to recommend the wrong treatment or a nurse to administer inappropriate medications to a patient. Due to technical failures in data systems, the information relayed at the source may not be accurate when reaching the intended recipient.

Wrong tests 

Failure to order appropriate tests causes medical errors. Doctors can order wrong tests without knowledge and, in return, receive abnormal results, making it impossible to establish a differential diagnosis. Moreover, a doctor can request appropriate tests, but the laboratory technician performs an unrelated analysis, returning false results. Inaccurate tests and subsequent results cause a doctor to diagnose an incorrect illness and miss the real problem. Medical errors stemming from wrong tests are detrimental to a person’s health; they undermine patient safety.

Lack of supervision

Supervision is crucial in a healthcare setting as it allows a senior practitioner to monitor and guide junior staff, minimizing errors. Inadequate guidance causes inexperienced and subordinate healthcare providers to take matters on their own, increasing the likelihood of a mistake. It is important to note that excessive oversight contributes to medical errors instead of preventing them. Too much supervision makes people nervous, increasing the possibility of a mistake because one is under psychological pressure. Moderate supervision is recommended to achieve the desired health outcomes.

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