Ditching the blame game: Effectively responding to medical errors

Pharmacologist focuses on approaches to prevent medical errors in veterinary medicine

By Coco Lederhouse
Published: 18 May 2023


Medical errors can mean the difference between life and death, but at the same time, are very much a reality of veterinary practice. If humans are involved in a process, there will always be mistakes, said Lauren Forsythe, PharmD, a clinical assistant professor of pharmacy and the pharmacy service head at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

She presented the session “Error Prevention: How to Play Your Part” on March 17 at the 2023 Student AVMA (SAVMA) Symposium, which addressed processing systems within veterinary medicine for preventing harmful errors.

She referenced a March 2018 JAVMA study, which reported that, among 606 veterinarians responding to a survey, 73.8% had been involved in at least one near miss or adverse event.

“We need to change the question from 'Who is to blame?' to 'What is to blame?'” Dr. Forsythe said.

Mistakes involving surgery were the most common type of medical error, according to a 2015 Vet Record study about the types of errors in veterinary practice. One review of 74,485 veterinary cases found that almost 40% of adverse events could be linked to operations. Of these cases, the majority were from general surgery and orthopedics.

Another study, this one examining veterinary hospital processes, found that 54% of medical errors were drug related, followed by failures of communication. Primarily, the drug-related events occurred because of faulty administration processes, such as giving the wrong dose or treating the wrong patient.

Medication errors tend to occur when labelling is unclear, devices are designed poorly, medication is stored improperly, or error-prone abbreviations are used, Dr. Forsythe said.

To see the full version of this story, visit the AVMA News website.