Examples of Medical Errors

There are different examples of medical errors however, an error is defined as the failure to complete a planned action as intended or the use of the incorrect plan to achieve a goal.

Medical errors are everyone’s concern and responsibility. The more you know, whether you are a healthcare professional, a family caregiver, or a patient, the better you can protect yourself and others.

Examples of medical errors an overview

The amount of information you require depends on your situation. Medical care can go wrong in a variety of ways.

Errors can occur during medication administration, laboratory testing, when infections occur in the healthcare setting, as a result of surgery, in an environment that contributes to pressure ulcers or a patient fall, or even during documentation or data entry tasks. Here are a few examples of medical errors:

  • Having surgery performed on the incorrect part of the body.
  • Receiving the incorrect meal while in the hospital, such as a regular meal when you require a salt-free meal.
  • Using the wrong medication or dose of medication.
  • Obtaining an incorrect diagnosis or lab test.
  • Not understanding what the doctor’s instructions mean and doing the wrong thing.
  • Having a piece of medical equipment fail or not function properly.

Causes of Medical Errors

Medical errors occur when a different treatment is used inadvertently or contrary to what a reasonable practitioner would have chosen under similar circumstances, despite the fact that there is a more correct treatment path for the patient.

There are several common causes of this type of medical malpractice:


Doctors frequently work long shifts with little rest. When fatigue sets in, it can be difficult to think and concentrate, which can lead to mistakes.

User Error

Medical errors can occur in the transition to digital administration when a practitioner is unfamiliar with a system or fails to double-check the information entered. A minor misclick on a drop-down menu could result in an error.


Everyone has to start somewhere, but when a new doctor fails to consider diagnostic tools or symptoms outside of their experience, it can lead to a preventable error.


A misdiagnosis can be disastrous for a patient in critical need of medical attention.

Patient-Related Issues

Inappropriate patient identification, insufficient patient assessment, failure to obtain consent, and insufficient patient education are examples.

Human problems

Human issues arise when care standards, policies, processes, or procedures are not followed correctly or efficiently.

Poor specimen documentation and labeling are two examples. Knowledge-based errors occur when individuals lack the necessary knowledge to provide the necessary care at the time it is required.

Communication Problems

A breakdown in communication is the most common cause of medical errors. These issues can arise in a medical practice or a healthcare system, whether verbal or written, and can occur between a physician, nurse, healthcare team member, or patient. Medical errors are frequently caused by a breakdown in communication.

Organizational Transfer of Knowledge

Training deficiencies and inconsistent or inadequate education for those providing care are examples of these issues. Knowledge transfer is critical in most areas, especially where new employees or temporary help are used.

Technical failures

Complications or failures with medical devices, implants, grafts, or pieces of equipment are examples of technical failures.

Inadequate policies

Poor documentation and non-existent or inadequate procedures are frequently to blame for failures in the care process.

Staffing patterns and Workflow

Inadequate staffing does not cause medical errors in and of itself, but it can place healthcare workers in situations where they are more likely to make a mistake.

What are the top 5 Medical Errors

Below, you will find the list of the top 5 medical errors you ought to know;

1. Medication Errors

Medication errors are common medical errors. A physician, for example, may prescribe the incorrect dose of a medication or the incorrect medication. Similarly, nurses may give patients the incorrect medication or dose of medication.

In pharmacies, prescription medication errors can occur. The pharmacist may misread the prescription or administer the incorrect medication or dose to the customer.

In some cases, doctors and pharmacists may fail to read a patient’s charge or medical history in order to determine if the patient is allergic to the medication or if the medication will interact negatively with another medication the patient is taking.

2. Infection

Medical providers are supposed to follow protocols that reduce the risk of infection. From sterile surgical tools to frequent cleaning and sanitation, some infections are resistant.

MRSA requires constant vigilance in a hospital setting, as its resistance to antibiotics makes it both dangerous and difficult to treat.

3.  Failure to Obtain Informed consent

A patient has the right to complete information about medical treatments and procedures. A doctor has a responsibility to explain each procedure or treatment, including the risks and benefits. The doctor should also explain alternative treatment options and other details

4. Misdiagnosis

A misdiagnosis can be disastrous for a patient in desperate need of medical attention. The best-case scenario is that proper treatment is simply delayed; however, things could get much worse.

The wrong treatment can cause a condition to rapidly worsen into increasingly severe symptoms, and some treatments can be harmful if not used for the right reasons.

5. Diagnosis Delay

A refusal to believe there is a medical problem can be just as dangerous as a misdiagnosis. According to studies, women and minorities have a more difficult time getting their pain and clinical symptoms taken seriously by medical practitioners.

This can result in prolonged suffering and worsening of the condition before proper medical intervention is provided.

Evidence-based practice to reduce medication Errors

  1. Your best defense is knowledge. If something your doctor says confuses you, ask for an explanation. When starting a new medication, make sure you know the answers to the following questions:
  2. Inquiring is necessary, but it is not sufficient. Medication reconciliation is a process that your health care providers can use to significantly reduce your risk of medication errors. Medication reconciliation is a safety strategy that involves comparing the list of medications on file with your health care provider to the list of medications you are currently taking.
  3. Inform your doctor and other health professionals about all of the medications you are taking, as well as any drug allergies or other adverse drug reactions. If you are taking pain medication, keep in touch with your doctor. Inform your doctor about any severe or unexpected side effects.
  4. On the part of the doctor, there should be a stop to trying to multitask, Eliminate distractions, Use a task tracker or checklists, Try automating your task workflows, Review your work carefully, get a second set of eyes, take breaks, and refresh with a mental pause.

How to prevent Medical Errors in Healthcare

Being involved in your health care is the most effective way to prevent medical errors. Learn as much as you can about your health problem, medicine, and treatment, and participate in making all decisions about your care.

Speak with everyone involved in your health care. This includes your doctors and other health care providers, as well as family and friends.

Make sure you understand a medicine, treatment plan, surgery, or lifestyle change, such as changing your diet, before you agree to it. If you are unsure about what, how, or why, always ask.

The following steps can assist you in avoiding medical errors:

  • Express any concerns you may have and ask all questions you need to ask.  Anyone involved in your care has the responsibility to answer you. This is made easier if you have a doctor you trust.
  • Ascertain that someone is responsible for your care. This is especially important if you have a lot of medical issues or are in the hospital. This could be a doctor who helps to coordinate all of the team members who are caring for you.
  • Ensure that your medical records are accessible to all health professionals involved in your care. Don’t take it for granted that everyone is up to date on everything.
  • Solicit the assistance of a family member or a friend. Bring someone with you to a doctor’s appointment or to the hospital. If you are unable to help yourself, ensure that this person will speak up for you and get things done. Even if you don’t require assistance right now, you might in the future. Make sure this person is aware of your healthcare preferences.
  • Understand that “more” does not always imply “better.” Learn why a test or treatment is required and how it can benefit you. It’s possible that without it, you’d be better off.
  • Inquire about when and how you will receive the results of tests or procedures. If you do not receive them when you expect to, do not assume that the results are satisfactory. Call your doctor and inquire about the results and their significance.

Conclusion on the Examples of Medical Errors

Medical errors may sound like something out of a movie or your worst nightmare, but they are a sad reality. According to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, over 250,000 people die each year as a result of preventable medical errors.

Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, which is concerning given that patients rely on doctors to save them. A medical error is a preventable negative effect of medical care, regardless of whether it is visible or harmful to the patient. Medical errors can endanger your health, cause additional medical bills, and even take your life. We rely on the health care practitioners and facilities we use to make us feel better, and a preventable medical error betrays that trust.

A medical error can have far-reaching consequences, ranging from shattering your faith in the system to endangering your or a loved one’s health.

When it comes to medications and your health, “don’t ask, don’t tell” is never a good policy. If something doesn’t seem right, don’t be afraid to ask questions or tell your doctors. Keep in mind that you are the last line of defense against medication.

Examples of Medical Errors Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. What types of medical errors are there?

Invoking psychological theory, medication errors can be classified as knowledge-based errors, rule-based errors, action-based slips, and memory-based lapses. This classification helps to inform prevention strategies.

  1. What is the most common healthcare error?

A breakdown in communication is the most common cause of medical errors. These issues can arise in a medical practice or a healthcare system, whether verbal or written, and can occur between a physician, nurse, healthcare team member, or patient. Medical errors are frequently caused by a breakdown in communication.

  1. What is the best way to reduce medication prescription errors?

Taking an active role in your own health care is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of medication error.

Learn about the medications you use, including any potential side effects. Never be afraid to ask your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care providers questions or express concerns.


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