We take several things for granted in our daily lives, and this especially reigns true when we place our trust in surgeons and rely on their expertise for our wellbeing.
Medical professionals are some of the people we trust the most because they’re responsible for our health when we’re at our sickest. Unfortunately, medical error is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.
Continue reading to learn more about the frequency of medical malpractice..
Medical Error Statistics
Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., surpassing strokes, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes, according to a recent study from Johns Hopkins Medicine. Shockingly, one in seven patients receiving care in a hospital will fall victim to a medical error. Furthermore, an estimated 1.5 million people are injured each year due to medical malpractice, according to the Institute of Medicine.
In today’s blog, we will explore the seven most common causes of medical errors.
The most common medical error is misdiagnosis. A diagnosis error can result in delayed treatment, sometimes with fatal consequences. Not receiving a diagnosis is equally as dangerous; this is why it’s essential to disclose all your symptoms.
2. Unnecessary Tests and Procedures
Hospitals spend more than $700 billion every year on unnecessary tests and treatments, according to Healthcare Economist. Not only is this expensive, but it can also be deadly.
For instance, CT scans increase your risk of cancer, and their dyes can lead to kidney failure. Even getting your blood drawn can result in infection.
This information isn’t meant to discourage you from getting tests done, but it’s essential to be aware of the potential risks involved. Be sure to ask your doctor why a specific test or procedure is required.
3. Medication Errors
Over 60 percent of hospitalized patients aren’t able to take their regular medications during their stay. Moreover, nurses and doctors administer the wrong medication to approximately 1.5 million Americans each year; this mistake costs $3.5 billion, according to an Institute of Medicine report.
4. “Never Events”
In the medical world, a “never event” is a situation that should never occur, but when they do, they usually result in death. Some examples include:
- When a surgeon operates on the wrong patient
- When a surgeon operates on the wrong limb
- When food that’s meant to go inside a patient’s stomach tubes goes inside their chest tubes instead, resulting in a fatal infection
- When air bubbles go inside IV catheters, resulting in strokes
- When a surgeon accidentally leaves a face mask, sponge, wipe, or even scissors inside a patient’s body
5. Lack of Coordination
In our evolving healthcare system, having a personal doctor is becoming a relic of the past. If you’re going to the hospital, chances are you won’t be taken care of by your regular doctor, but by an on-call one instead.
Additionally, various specialists may take care of you, and some of them might not coordinate with each other. Worst of all, you may end up with two of the same tests, or medications that you shouldn’t mix. There could even be a lack of communication between your nurse and your surgeon, increasing the chances of medical error.
6. Infections from the Hospital
Hospital-acquired infections impact over 1.7 million people every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. These may include:
- Infections around the site of the surgery
- Urinary infections from catheters
- Bloodstream infections from IVs
Such infections usually involve bacteria that are resistant to several antibiotics, and they can be deadly to those with weakened immune systems.
7. Going Home Too Soon
According to USA Today, one in five patients returns to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. This is usually due to:
- Patients being released prematurely
- Patients not understanding their discharge information
- Patients not scheduling a follow-up, so they’re unaware about the status of their condition
- General treatment complications
The transition from hospital to home is a vulnerable time, and a combination of miscommunication and lack of aftercare can be deadly.
How Can I Be More Vigilant as a Patient?
Here are a few ways you can be more proactive as a patient:
- Ask questions: Gain as much insight as you can from the hospital. Ask about the benefits, side effects, and disadvantages of a medication or procedure.
- Seek a secondary perspective: If you’re uncertain about a procedure, you should ask another doctor for their opinion. A good doctor will welcome confirmation of their diagnosis, and they shouldn’t discourage their patient from doing their research.
- Bring an advocate: When you’re at the doctor’s office, it may be hard to process all the information by yourself. Bring a family member or friend to your appointment so they can help you keep track of information and ask additional questions.
Flickinger Sutterfield & Boulton Can Help You
Surgeons and hospitals owe a professional duty of care to their patients. If you’ve suffered a physical injury or emotional trauma due to a negligent doctor’s actions, you may be eligible for compensation. An experienced medical malpractice attorney at Flickinger Sutterfield & Boulton can help you receive damages. We’re a client-centered law firm dedicated to seeking justice for injury and wrongful death victims. Schedule a free case evaluation today.