Patient Safety Awareness Week

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The 2019 Patient Safety Awareness Week is March 10 through March 16. Given that medical errors are estimated to be the third leading cause of death in the United States – killing as many as 440,000 people a year - this annual seven-day effort is not a trivial pursuit.

Patient Safety Awareness Week is promoted by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.  Founded in 1991, the organization is comprised of healthcare experts and practitioners whose goal is reducing preventable medical errors.  It offers help to providers and healthcare treatment facilities in developing better delivery systems and a stronger overall culture of safety.

Common Types of Medical Errors that Harm Patients

In describing the need for the week-long event, the IHI notes that:

·         An estimated 5 percent of adults treated in outpatient facilities in this country fall victim to a medical diagnostic error. This term encompasses a misdiagnosis, a missed diagnosis, or a delayed diagnosis.

·         Errors made with medication is a leading medical mistake that patients suffer in inpatient and outpatient settings

·         One in 31 patients suffers from a hospital-acquired infection

This year’s Patient Safety Awareness Week is especially focused on medical mistakes made in outpatient settings, such as urgent care centers and same-day surgical centers.  One reason is the surge in outpatient medical facilities.  In December 2018, Modern Healthcare reported that the number of outpatient care centers in the United States jumped 51 percent between 2005 and 2016.

Mistakes Made at Outpatient Surgery Centers

Free-standing surgical centers are increasing in popularity as they are generally less expensive than hospital care.  But there can be drawbacks.

About a year ago, Kaiser Health News reported on a proliferation of serious errors made in outpatient surgical centers.  The report noted that, in an effort to treat more patients, outpatient surgery centers are taking on more risky surgeries; those more safely done in hospitals.

A growing number are also apparently accepting more high-risk patients.  And many treat patients with insufficient staffing levels and equipment resources.

The report concludes there’s a bottom-line reason for more patients being harmed in surgical centers.  There’s nothing preventing doctors who own such facilities from sending their patients to them.  The more surgical patients they see – regardless of the risk – the more money the owners stand to make.

So despite well-intentioned initiatives like Patient Safety Awareness Week, as long as there are facilities and physicians willing to cut corners at the expense of patient safety, preventable medical errors will remain a public threat.

If you suffered serious harm or lost a family member due to an error made in medical treatment, speak with a medical malpractice lawyer about pursuing your legal rights to just compensation from all those responsible.

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 March 7, 2019


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