A new study published in early July in the journal
Pediatrics has many obstetricians and hospital safety officials talking.
Per the research, approximately 11 percent of medical errors affecting
newborn babies stem from misidentification. Many hospitals use a relatively
generic naming convention, in which newborns are named "babygirl
Smith" or "babyboy Miller." In some cases, this convention
involves the mother's name, such as "Debrasgirl Smith" or
Dr. Jason Adelman, a New York City public safety officer, reported that
"many people knew that using only 'babygirl' or 'babyboy'
was a problem, but they couldn't really report it, because people
don't like to report errors... We came up with a way to track them."
Dr. Adelman and his team examined the frequency and severity of errors
in hospital orders over a two-year period at two different hospitals in
New York. Fortunately, these errors are often caught and fixed before
problems can develop, such as:
- One baby getting milk from the wrong mother and having an allergic reaction
or some other problem as a result of drinking non-maternal milk;
- A patient getting the wrong imaging test or lab results;
- A patient being misdiagnosed or under diagnosed for a potentially dangerous
Adelman et al found that, when hospitals use the more specific and concrete
naming convention involving the mother,
errors drop by a substantial 36 percent margin. Interviewed for the Milbank Quarterly about the study, a pediatrician
at Newton Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts named Dr. Clay Jones said
"medical errors that can occur when physicians or other healthcare
professionals confuse one patient for another can be quite serious, even
However, he offered the caveat that "the results of the study are
impressive, simply looking at the percent decrease in retract and reorder
errors... but we can't draw any firm conclusions." Perhaps, the
decrease in errors stemmed from the fact that researchers observed the
hospital staff, for instance, making them more conscious of their behavior.
While more research is needed, the investigation suggests that very subtle
factors can contribute to hospital errors, which lead to thousands of
deaths and untold agony for American patients every year.
If you need insight into a potential case, please get in touch with our
D.C. medical malpractice attorneys for a consultation.
Here's a sobering look at the statistics of neonatal department errors
Alarming Statistics on Medical and Obstetrical Errors.