Eliminating errors in emergency medical services: realities and recommendations

Prehosp Emerg Care. Jan-Mar 2002;6(1):107-13. doi: 10.1080/10903120290938913.


Errors in health care can have serious consequences, not only for patients but for society as a whole, given the considerable national expenditures required to address these errors. Because of the number of patients treated and the acuity of emergency situations, eliminating errors should be a priority in emergency medical services (EMS) systems. In a recent report, the Institute of Medicine called for improvements in patient safety, which it defined as freedom from accidental injury. Recent efforts have focused on integrating EMS systems into error analyses of the total health care system. However, EMS systems must take the initiative in addressing their own major error-prone areas using the best and most current data available. Unfortunately, addressing the problem of medical errors in EMS systems still suffers from a paucity of data, owing to a lack of organized, funded programs backed by legislation and dedicated government coordination. We recommend that EMS medical directors consider specific error audits to decrease sources of errors and to be better able to identify EMS providers who would benefit from retraining. Error audits might first be focused on the following potentially serious errors: equipment malfunction, failure to check oxygen saturation, failure to immobilize the patient, use of incorrect protocol or algorithm, failure to check glucose levels, failure to recognize patient deterioration, failure to detect misplaced endotracheal tubes, and use of wrong drug or drug dose.

Publication types

  • Consensus Development Conference
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Medical Services / standards*
  • Emergency Medical Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control*
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data
  • Quality Control
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • United States