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Surprising Facts About the Number of Medical Errors

Posted Jan 28 2013 10:07pm
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Hippocrates coined the phrase “First, do no harm”. Modern health care environments are complex with many health care specialists working a single case. A single lapse in the system such as a poorly written note on a patient’s record, a pharmacist missing that two medications are contraindicated or a simple misdiagnosis gone unchecked may make the patient become a statistic for an adverse event or medical error incident.

In the journal Health Affairs April 2011 vol. 30 no. 4, a report calculated the annual cost of measurable medical errors harming patients at a whopping $17.1 billion. An in depth study in 2000 by the Institute of Medicine found health care errors were common. As much as 44,000 to 98,000 deaths in the United States are from medical error annually. A 2004 Canadian study by G. R. Baker confirmed the American research. That study screened 3,754 medical charts and found a rate of 7.5% adverse events per 100 patients. Of that 7.5%, 20% of the patients died as a result of the errors.

Public perception says the hospital is entirely safe. Only people who have had an unfortunate incident happen to someone they love know otherwise. For the most part the hospital is safe, but like anyplace else it is run by humans and unless enough precautions are put in errors will happen on a regular basis. In any health procedure, a patient must be an active participant in their care. Doing research about an illness or condition, procedures commonly used, or alternatives are a good idea. A good look at the type of pharmaceuticals prescribed helps make informed decisions or prevent issues.

Medical errors come classified in three categories. Human error takes the form of mistakes, negligence, or incompetence. Work environment errors come under the categories of failing equipment, fatigue, and unreasonable workload. Errors caused by the organizational such as inadequate facilities, management policies or the chain of command in the organization itself are listed as system problems.

Doctors see many patients so to increase the level of communication keep a list of medications taken, and ask questions. Many problems stem from what the patient said is not what the doctor heard or a misunderstanding about test results. Also, most major illnesses have more than one doctor working the case so make sure each doctor knows what the other is doing or ask that all the doctors on the case have a meeting together. Have another person present to listen or go over the information with you. When one is ill, emotions do get in the way and having another person there helps.

Triple check all medications prescribed. Poor handwriting on the chart, a miscommunication between doctor and patient or incompatibility with the patient’s other medications happen. Pharmacies do verify medications, but when taking a new prescription ask the pharmacist if it is compatible with other medications taken or even appropriate for the condition you have. No harm is done by calling the doctor’s office and having the file checked to insure a patient understands fully their medication prescribed either.

Speak to the surgeon about the procedure performed. Make sure the doctors overseeing your care have fully informed the surgeon what is required. Speak to the surgeon or the assistant right before the procedure is performed. State the name and the name of the procedure your body will undergo. Schedule mix-ups or a mix-up on what body part to operate on do occur.

Take an active part in the treatment of your condition. Doctors are human, healthcare systems complex and the patient is the center point of it all. Check, recheck and ask questions.

Via ᔥ Facts quoted from Medical Errors and Patient Safety By Jay Kalra

About the Author: Kevin Dillon is a professional blogger that enjoys dicussing the law. He writes for Obradovich Law, a leading  personal injury lawyer in Toronto .
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