Preventing Medical Errors in Mental Health Settings

Preventing Medical Errors in Mental Health Settings

Medical errors can have a dire impact on clients/patients, agencies/institutions, and mental health professionals.

By raising our awareness of how medical errors can occur and by taking preventive steps, we can greatly reduce the potential for error and the emotional and financial stress involved.

A medical error can be defined as a failure of a planned intervention or the use of the wrong plan, as well as improper use of ethical protocols that causes a preventable, adverse event.  Medical errors include commissions and omissions.

From a mental health perspective, medical errors can result in improper diagnosis and treatment that causes physical and/or emotional harm, loss of trust in the profession, relapse, and trauma.

Populations at the greatest risk for medical errors include people with a psychiatric illness; people with co-existing conditions; and the elderly.

A comprehensive biopsychosocial is crucial in the prevention of a medical error because it is the first step in avoiding misdiagnosis and treatment.   In addition to asking basic information such as name, address, height, weight, and marital status, a comprehensive biopsychosocial asks information that can shed light on suicidal ideation, the possibility of eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and domestic violence.   Questions can lead to important information about a client’s stability and ability to form long-term relationships.  Information about past trauma and substance abuse is important for treatment planning, and questions about how disagreements are handled with one’s partner will yield information about the possibility of domestic violence.  Height and weight can shed light on the possibility of an eating disorder.  All of this vital information is needed for proper treatment planning and goal setting.

The State of Florida requires Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapists, & Licensed Mental Health Counselors to take a course in the prevention of medical errors once every two years in order to meet license renewal requirements. We do offer just such a course.

Sign up for the Medical Errors Course