What Causes Serious Medical Mistakes in Hospital Emergency Rooms?

Hospital emergency rooms require quick, informed and accurate patient care decisions.  Unfortunately, several types of medical mistakes in the ER can lead to those decisions being wrong and sometimes fatal.

Emergency room errors vary, from providing the wrong care to wrongfully providing no care.  What factors lead to these serious medical mistakes?

The fast-paced nature of the emergency room contributes to adverse patient events.  ER doctors and their staff have to be trained to respond correctly to the wide variety of medical situations they see.  They also must remain calm and thorough when physical, emotional and mental demands are at their highest and margins for error at their slimmest.

Poor Communication Among ER Staff

Miscommunication between ER doctors and nurses, therefore, may create a deadly domino-effect for medical mistakes.  Electronic patient records and orders with incomplete or incorrect information can lead to wrong healthcare paths.  Those along all stages of the ER treatment chain need to be alert.  Nurses should question unclear doctors’ orders.  And doctors should always take the time to check questionable or surprising test results.

Patients handed off from the ER to another hospital bed may also suffer from dangerous communication errors.  More than half of the emergency departments included in a 2017 hospital study reported miscommunications  in over 10 percent of their patient handoffs.

Ineffective electronic communication devices can delay needed responses from other doctors, according to the hospitals surveyed. Low-tech difficulties – such as bad handwriting in written orders – were also cited.  Another common concern was delayed lab test results.

Because emergency room doctors treat patients with an assortment of serious conditions, the medications they prescribe likewise are wide ranging.  The combination of high patient volume and the dire need to assure that the right medication is administered in the right dosage and in the right manner only increases the odds for preventable drug errors that can do ER patients harm.

Poor Hospital Safety Culture and Emergency Room Errors

A hospital’s safety culture – how strongly patient safety is emphasized – can determine how often medical errors occur in the ER.  Serious medical mistakes shouldn’t be swept under the rug.  Hospital administrators and physicians focused on patient safety welcome full disclosure and investigation.  Once the causes are acknowledged, hospitals can establish protocols to ensure avoidable medical errors in the ER aren’t repeated.

Of course hospital emergency rooms are challenging environments for doctors and nurses.  That’s why it’s reasonable and imperative that hospitals identify and then rectify the factors leading to serious medical mistakes in the ER.

If you were harmed or a family member died from what you believe is poor medical care in the emergency room or elsewhere in a hospital, you may want to discuss the details of your experience with an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Articles on June 29, 2017