Medical errors claimed the lives of 251,454 patients in 2015. This makes medical errors the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer. In fact, researchers at Johns Hopkins estimate that up to 10% of all deaths in the US each year are attributable to medical errors. Hospitals and medical providers are required to adhere to universal safety precautions that are designed to prevent medical errors from occurring, it is clear that these precautions are not sufficient enough to protect patients from harm. The number of medical errors is rising the National Academy of Sciences estimates that millions of patients suffer medical errors every year. Indeed, patient safety is anything but guaranteed when individuals seek treatment for their afflictions. These errors negatively impact patient health and result in billions of dollars of lost income and additional treatment costs.
Common Errors that are Preventable
Many medical errors boil down to negligent handling of patient records and the administration of treatment. The following are some of the most common, and easily preventable medical errors that medical malpractice lawyers in Chicago see on a regular basis:
Medication Errors – Medication errors include administering the wrong drug, prescribing the wrong dosage, and failing to recognize reaction risks. The Institute of Medicine estimates that medication errors injure nearly 1.5 million people per year.
Blood Transfusions – It is estimated that up to 60% of blood transfusions are conducted without strict adherence to policy or protocol. Errors in blood transfusions can include failing to screen the donated blood for contaminants or infectious pathogens and failure to provide the correct blood type. Moreover, some patients are given too many transfusions which can increase the patient’s risk of serious injury or death.
Oxygen Overload – In particular, premature babies can be given too much oxygen while they are in the NICU. The excess of oxygen that accumulates within the infant’s body can lead to blindness. Conversely, elderly patients who require oxygen as part of their treatment for conditions including asbestosis, COPD, or emphysema, can receive too little oxygen for their needs.
Infections – The CDC estimates that up to 4% of patients every day will contract an infection while they are being treated in a healthcare facility. These infections are spread via improper sterilization procedures and failure to do simple tasks such as washing hands, cleaning linens, or properly disposing of medical waste.
Communications Breakdowns – Poor communication effects everyone in the healthcare setting. Communications errors include doctors failing to properly communicate treatment regimens with their teams, nurses failing to verify the appropriate treatment, lab technicians failing to convey the proper reports to the care providers are all common errors. These errors can result in misdiagnosis, inadequate treatment, and improper administration of prescriptions.
Falls – Healthcare facilities are required to properly secure patients before moving them within a healthcare facility. Improperly securing patients to beds, or eschewing the use of restraints and protective cages can cause patients to quite literally fall out of bed as they are being transported.
Inaccurate Records – Accurate records are essential for determining the proper course of treatment a patient requires. Moreover, these records contain information that physicians must depend on when prescribing medications and therapies that may conflict with existing medications and treatments. Coding errors and omissions within a patient’s records can have serious consequences that can cause long-term pain and suffering or even death to a patient.
The alarming rise in the numbers of patients being afflicted by medical errors has forced the healthcare industry to open up about the problem. In the past, most hospitals simply shrugged and ignored the realities their patients were facing. This past May, the Agency for Healthcare Research issued an online toolkit for hospitals to use that is aimed at expanding communication and seeking resolution in the wake of a medical error. These guidelines promote increased transparency in reporting and discussing adverse medical events with patients and their families.
Patients have a right to expect thorough care when they enter into treatment. Patients who do not receive the proper care or suffer adverse events due to the negligence of their physicians or members of the medical team may pursue compensation with the assistance of a medical malpractice lawyer in Chicago. Patients who have experienced injuries or suffered negative consequences due to their treatment should thoroughly document their experience including the names of the people involved in providing their treatment, as well as the dates of adverse events. The more thorough the documentation, the easier it is to show a direct effect the medical error has had on a patient’s life. Moreover, the presence of detailed records can indicate whether there is an inherent lapse in safety within a specific healthcare practice that is putting other patients at risk for similar injuries.