Patient safety problems in adolescent medical care

Donna M Woods, Jane L Holl, Jonathan D Klein, Eric J Thomas
Journal of Adolescent Health: Official Publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine 2006, 38 (1): 5-12

PURPOSE: This study estimates the annual incidence and describes the nature, types, and contributing factors involved in patient safety problems in adolescent medical care.

METHODS: This study uses data from the population-based Colorado and Utah Medical Practice Study to describe the incidence of hospital-based adverse events and preventable adverse events in adolescents and "critical incidence analysis" data reported by pediatric clinicians to elucidate the nature, types, and contributing factors in adolescent patient safety problems.

RESULTS: The incidence of adverse events in adolescents in the Colorado and Utah Medical Practice Study was 2.74 (CI 95% = 2.62-2.86), significantly higher than all other age groups of children. The incidence of preventable adverse events in adolescents was 0.95 (CI 95% = 0.65-1.25), significantly higher than that of children 1-12 years old, but not significantly different than infants. Diagnostic events were most common, followed by medication events. Services associated with the highest frequency of events were pharmacy and Family Practice. In the critical incident analysis, adolescent-specific factors contributed to 54.8% of the described patient safety problems. Discomfort with adolescents, a factor not described for other age groups of children, contributed to 17% of the adolescent patient safety problems.

CONCLUSIONS: Adolescents experience relatively high rates of patient safety problems compared with other age groups of children. Adolescents represent a defined population with a patient safety risk profile that differs from adults and younger children. The substantial contribution of adolescent-specific factors suggests that patient safety improvements, to be effective, should address adolescent-specific risks.

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