Most Common Medical Errors Made During Outpatient Medical Care

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While one leading patient safety organization recently reported on medical errors made at same-day surgery facilities, another recently published its report on common and dangerous medical mistakes made during other outpatient care.

In October the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit that rates hospitals for patient safety, entered new waters with a report on patient safety in outpatient surgery centers across the country.  The organization had concerns over some of its findings.

About the same time the ECRI Institute released a more comprehensive look at patient safety in U.S. outpatient care facilities and other non-hospital treatment centers, also known as ambulatory care.  ECRI Institute is an independent organization that advises medical organizations on safe patient care practices.

Medical Adverse Events in Outpatient Centers

Its latest report, “Safe Ambulatory Care - Strategies for Patient Safety & Risk Reduction,” is a review of the state of ambulatory care provided by physicians, outpatient care centers, and community health centers. The study reviewed 4,355 patient adverse events occurring during outpatient care between December 2017 and November 2018.

The report notes one inherent challenge with outpatient care: as more physician practices and ambulatory care centers are purchased by hospitals and health systems, they still remain somewhat independent, which can lead to poor communication and coordination of patient record-keeping between outpatient centers and their larger owners.

The authors also more specifically identify the most common medical errors made in outpatient medical care.

Laboratory Testing Errors Found Most Often

The most common medical mistake made in outpatient medical care, according to the report, is patient misdiagnosis. Over the study’s one-year period, 47% of all patient safety event reports researchers uncovered were for diagnostic testing errors.

The authors note that this finding is not surprising given the large amount of testing that occurs today in outpatient care.  And that there are numerous opportunities for healthcare providers to make mistakes since diagnosing patients through testing is a multi-step process that includes:

·         Ordering the correct medical test

·         Gathering and delivering the sample without error

·         Correctly interpreting medical test results

The overwhelming percentage of diagnostic errors found – almost 7 out of every 10 – were in laboratory testing, as opposed to imaging or other types of medical tests.

The second most common medical error made in outpatient centers, doctors’ offices and community health centers involved medication safety, or lack thereof. More than a quarter (27%) of the adverse events patients suffered during outpatient treatment involved medication errors.

The authors found that 67% of the medication mistakes were:

·         Wrong drug administered

·         Drug administered to the wrong patient

·         Drug given to patient at the wrong time

While hospitalized patients typically demand more thorough medical care and monitoring, those receiving treatment in outpatient care facilities and doctors’ offices should receive the same high level of care and attention to detail as well.

If you suffered serious harm or had a loved one die during medical treatment, an attorney experienced in conducting medical malpractice investigations can uncover what went wrong and why.

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

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Blog November 11, 2019


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