report shows how often dietary errors occur at pa hospitals

We now know more than ever about the serious health risk posed by allergies to things like nuts, dairy, wheat and shellfish thanks to the tireless efforts of advocacy groups, government officials and, of course, concerned citizens.

Indeed, you now see food packaging clearly outlining any potential allergens, restaurant menus listing ingredients of which allergy sufferers should be aware and school cafeterias offering alternatives for children with food allergies.

As encouraging as this increasing knowledge and accommodation has been, a recent report by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority found that there is one surprising setting in which more proactive measures perhaps need to be taken when it comes to food allergies: the hospital.

From January 2009 through June 2014, the Patient Safety Authority received reports of 285 so-called dietary errors, eight of which involved serious patient harm. Indeed, of these 285 incidents, 181 involved hospital patients being served food to which they were allergic and this was identified as the cause of all eight harmful patient incidents.

The remaining 104 dietary errors involved giving patients who were on a diet the wrong food (50 incidents), giving patients food designated for other patients (43 incidents) and giving patients food even though they were under orders not to receive it (11 incidents).

After careful consultation with dietary experts across the Keystone State, the Patient Safety Authority identified several risk reduction strategies that hospitals can consider adopting to neutralize the threat, including:

  • Supplying additional training and continuing education to workers on everything from food allergies to food preparation.
  • Requiring chefs and cooks to use only listed ingredients and allowing no substitutions.
  • Using at least two unique identifiers before giving patients their food trays.

While an issue like dietary errors could easily go overlooked by hospitals, here’s hoping they recognize the need to take action and follow through with meaningful changes in order to keep patients safe.

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