A very scary study has been published in the journal BMC Emergency Medicine. The study found that sixty percent of the causes of unintended incidents in the emergency department that could have compromised patient safety are related to human failures. Human failures mean that the doctors, nurses or even orderlies did do something or did not do something properly.

There is no question that hospitals and emergency rooms are challenging settings with the staff under pressure. However, this can not be an excuse for patients to be made to suffer from unintended harm caused by errors in health care management. Much more effort must be made to eliminate these errors.

Marleen Smits and colleagues from Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research and EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research set out to learn about these accidental causes that result in harm to patients. Their goal was to increase patient safety.

They studied emergency rooms at 10 hospitals in the Netherlands for the limited period of 8-14 weeks. They requested that the emergency room staff report all unintended events, defined as all unintended incidents that could have harmed or did harm a patient.

During this brief period, they received a total of 522 unintended event reports of which more than half had consequences for the patient. A quarter (25%) of the reported events related to cooperation between the emergency department and other hospital departments. The team found that most root causes were human (60%), followed by organizational (25%) and tech