Prevention of Medical Errors

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This course gives a brief overview of medical errors and how they affect massage therapists. Learn why medical errors contribute to high health costs nationally. Learn why it's important to focus your energies on safety for your clients as well as for yourself.

In the state of Florida, the Florida Board of Massage requires that all licensed massage therapists (and all health care providers) complete two hours covering the prevention of medical errors for license renewal.

Prevention of Medical Errors Course Outline (2 CEUs):
  • Chapter One: Introduction

A medical error is “a preventable adverse effect of care, whether or not it is evident or harmful to the patient. This might include an inaccurate or incomplete diagnosis or treatment of a disease, injury, syndrome, behavior, infection or other ailment.”i Medical errors are more widespread than we, as patients, may be comfortable believing. One in every seven Medicare patients are victims of a medical error when under hospital care.ii

  • Chapter Two: The Frequency of Medical Errors

Shockingly, 22 percent of patient deaths while under active hospital care were at least possibly preventable by better medical care.iii This number factors out to between 44,000 and 98,000 annual deaths in America alone due to medical errors.iv Errors lead to over 1 million injuries in the United States every year.v

  • Chapter Three: Common Medical Errors

Communication, surgical errors, accidental infection, lab errors and treatment errors are all common medical errors that happen in taking care of a patient. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, communication problems are the most common cause of medical And up to seven operations on the wrong part of the body are performed every day, amounting to an average of 2,700 unnecessary surgeries per year.vii

  • Chapter Four: Sentinel Events

A sentinel event is an unexpected event that “results in death or serious physical or psychological injury, or the risk of their later occurrence.”viii Serious physical injury refers to the loss of a limb or its function.ix While these events can happen in any area of the healthcare industry, 68 percent occur in regular hospitals and 11 percent occur in psychiatric hospitals.x The most common sentinel events are: “patient suicide, wrong-site surgery, operative/postoperative complications, medical errors, and delay in treatment- in that order.”xi When these events occur, 73 percent of the patients die and 10 percent lose bodily or mental function in some way.xii

  • Chapter Five: Common Root Causes

The biggest cause of medical errors is communication problems, but there are additional categories of common causes, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

  • Chapter Six: Medication Errors

Medication errors are the most common medical error, so we have dedicated a separate chapter to discuss them. Around 1.3 million people in the United States are harmed every year through medical errors. A medication error is “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of a health care professional, patient or consumer.”xiii

  • Chapter Seven: Prevention

Being an active member of your own healthcare team can help secure your personal safety. Always speak up if you have concerns. A number of different tips for prevention are in this chapter. These tips are focused on preventing surgery errors, preventing hospital acquired infections and maintaining electronic medical records.

  • Chapter Eight: Failure to Report Errors

There is currently no Federal system requiring health care professionals to report medical errors. President Obama, our current President at time of writing, favors mandatory reporting for infections, but not for all errors.xiv Those opposed to mandatory reporting of all medical errors cite the ambiguity of most cases: they are not the result of a clear cut error (like operating on the wrong eye, for example), but are the result of a number of factors.xv





i Wikipedia, “Medical Error,”


ii Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “20 Tips to Prevent Medical Errors,”


iii Rodney A. Hayward and Timothy P. Hofer, The Journal of the American Medical Association, “Estimating Hospital Deaths Due to Medical Errors,”


iv Fred Charatan, BMJ, “Clinton Acts to Reduce Medical Mistakes,” March 4, 2000,


v N Saul Weingart, Ross McL Wilson, Robert W Gibberd, Bernadette Harrison, BMJ, “Epidemiology of Medical Error,” March 18, 2000,


vi Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “AHRQ’s Patient Safety Initiative,”


vii ABC News, “Medical Error,”


viii Joen Pritchard Kinnan, The Hospitalist, “Sentinel Events,” October 2006,


ix Joint Commission of Healthcare Organizations, “Medical Errors, Sentinel Events, and Accreditation,”


x Kinnan


xi Ibid.


xii Ibid.


xiii Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MedicineNet, “The Most Common Medication Errors,”


xiv Richard S. Dunham,, “Obama Opposes Mandatory Reporting of Medical Errors,” August 22, 2009,


xv Ibid.



Continuing education units (CEUs) are provided via electronic download in PDF format. Review the course work at your own pace and then take the included test online. You can print your certificate immediately after passing each test! All coursework is NCBTMB approved (NCBTMB # 451897-12). NOTE: Each state has different requirements. Please be sure to check our state requirements page and contact your state to verify your requirements.