Avoiding common medical errors is not as difficult as some people might think. It is also not impossible to avoid exposure to medical negligence claims. While they might be easy to avoid, each year a large number of claims initiated against healthcare professionals are due to mistakes made in patient safety protocol as well as errors that occur during communications between staff members. Fortunately, many medical errors can be prevented through the implementation of better and more uniform patient safety techniques. This article reviews some of the most common causes of medical malpractice, all of which can result in serious harm to patients and subsequently costly litigation.
Communication breakdown between medical staff is one of the most common causes of malpractice that leads to serious injuries or even deaths. Proper care requires accurate communication between various medical professionals. Failure in communication between staff has been directly attributed to 30% of medical malpractice cases. Some of the most common types of obstacles with communication include:
- Miscommunication or failure to communicate the entirety of details about a patient’s condition.
- Documentation regarding clinical findings, medication schedules, or a patient’s vitals that are either inaccurate, insufficient, or received after the time they are needed.
- Medical records that are not sufficiently read or examined for important details about a patient’s health.
When medical professionals fail to provide a patient with timely care, it is not uncommon for malpractice to occur. To constitute malpractice, the delay in care must constitute medical negligence. Remember, almost all medical malpractice lawsuits depend on whether the health care provider’s actions met or fell below the medical standard of care, which is the degree of care that an average health care provider in the same practice area would provide. A patient must also establish quantifiable harm that resulted from medical negligence. For example, if a medical provider fails to intubate a patient quickly enough, a patient could end up passing away. In these situations, the harm would be the patient’s death but it would be necessary to show that the delay in intubation fell below the standard of accepted medical care.
Failing to Utilize Medication Reconciliation
Medication reconciliation is a substantial challenge that places the safety of many patients at risk. When the medication history of a patient is inaccurately recorded, misinformation can end up following a patient throughout treatment and lead to harmful medication errors. Patient medication lists must be verified and evaluated as patients receive treatment to prevent such problems from happening. Not only are medications sometimes left off paperwork, sometimes medical professionals fail to write down that newly prescribed medication will harshly interact with other medications that are being taken. Some of the strategies that medical professionals should follow to address medical reconciliation issues include:
- Assigning either a registered nurse or pharmacist to managing medicine reconciliation
- Separate medicine reconciliation with rooming tasks
- Stress to patients the importance of keeping an accurate medication list
Data suggests that as many as 1 million patients each year fall in a healthcare environment. Around a third of the falls lead to injuries. Medical professionals are responsible for deciding which patients are at risk of falls as well as implementing safeguards to reduce the chances that falls occur. Several factors can make a medical situation a place where falls are likely to occur. Some of the factors that are likely to lead to falls include:
- When patients are provided multiple medications and the combination of medications leads to side effects that make the patient experience difficulty maintaining their balance. This in turn leads to the patient falling.
- When a medical provider fails to recognize symptoms in an individual that suggest a stroke or other conditions that lead to the patient falling.
When medical professionals perform surgery on the wrong part of a patient, both an additional part of the patient’s body is harmed and the area that is actually in need of medical attention is neglected. Damages from wrong-site surgery are frequently serious and can even be disabling. Wrong-site surgery does only mean that a medical provider performed surgery on the wrong part of a patient’s body, it can also involve a different organ or the wrong limb. When these errors occur, there are several types of medical providers who might be held liable. While the error might be the fault of a doctor, it does not have to be. A hospital or medical facility might be responsible for performing wrong-site surgery. For example, the hospital might have poor policies in place that led to failure in communications about what type of surgery the patient needed. Additionally, a wrong diagnosis might also lead to an operation being performed on the wrong part of a patient’s body.
Retain Objects During Surgery
A retained object is a foreign body that is left inside of a patient’s body after a surgery or other medical procedure. Some of the most common types of objects that end up left inside of patients include clamps, gauze, needles, and sponges. Sometimes, medical staff realizes this error immediately after a medical procedure, while other times it takes months or years before the error is noticed. Retained objects can lead patients to end up facing serious complications including pain and infections. Some situations more so than others increase the likelihood the foreign objects will be left inside of a patient’s body including emergency surgeries, increased blood loss during surgery, patients with body mass index, and surgeries that involve unplanned changes.
Improper Discharge Handling
Hospital patients on discharge must be aware of their diagnosis as well as what care it is recommended they receive at home. Discharging medical providers should coordinate with the patient’s primary care physician to make sure that test results are properly followed and reported to the patient.
Contact an Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorney
When medical malpractice occurs, victims are often left feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about what they can do to hold the responsible parties accountable. Contact the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe LLP today to schedule a free case evaluation.
For a free legal consultation, call 516-358-6900