What Are The Top Medical Errors That Harm Patients?

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For a second straight year, a leading healthcare safety organization identified medical misdiagnosis – a preventable medical error - as its top patient safety concern.

In March, the ECRI Institute published its “Top 10 Patient Safety Concerns for 2020.” The ECRI is a nonprofit organization that works to improve the quality and effectiveness of medical care.  It compiles this annual list by consulting with medical experts and reviewing patient medical care histories that detail adverse medical events.

Leading this year’s list of patient safety concerns, as with the 2019 version, is medical misdiagnosis.  This includes:

  • A missed patient diagnosis
  • A delayed patient diagnosis
  • The wrong medical diagnosis

The report indicates that a missed or delayed medical diagnosis most often leads to serious harm, including the death of the patient.

How to Prevent a Medical Misdiagnosis

It suggests that to prevent a dangerous misdiagnosis, healthcare providers should take adequate time to meet with patients, review their histories, and conduct proper examinations.  Mistakes with electronic health records – inputting data incorrectly or wrongly interpreting correct medical information – also can lead to a patient’s misdiagnosis.

The second leading patient safety concern is maternal health.  The report states that 60% of all women’s deaths related to childbirth each year in the United States is preventable.

Another top patient safety concern for 2020 relates to unsafe medical devices. ECRI reports that medical devices harm patients in 84 out of every 1,000 hospital admissions, or about 8% of all hospital patients.

It’s not only hospital patients who are harmed by either defective medical devices or the improper use of medical devices. The report says that unsafe medical devices potentially can cause serious injuries wherever they are found, such as dentist offices, nursing homes and surgical centers.

When a patient is hurt by a medical device, the first priority is providing appropriate care.  ECRI emphasizes that thorough investigations into the incident also must be conducted, and plans put into place to prevent similar medical device injuries in the future.

Medical Devices Not Properly Cleaned and Sterilized

Another leading patient safety concern also involves unsafe medical devices.  ECRI’s number five in 2020 is the proper cleaning, disinfection and sterilization of medical devices and medical equipment.

For example, according to the report, sterilization mistakes can lead to surgical site infections, which kill about 3% of surgical patients every year.

A few reasons why this preventable medical error occurs are poor communication between medical staff, improper training, and lack of necessary cleaning and sterilization supplies.

Medication errors involving antibiotics also are on this year’s list. As prescriptions of antibiotics have increased, their effectiveness in fighting certain serious infections has diminished.  So, the report highlights the use of antibiotics only when needed and to avoid common mistakes with all medications, including giving them in the wrong dose.

A broader scope of medication mistakes follows antibiotic errors on the list.  It deals with automated medication dispensing cabinets. Hospitals use these computerized devices to control and track the distribution of drugs. Drugs kept there normally can’t be distributed without a pharmacist’s consent.

However, physician overrides allow medications to be taken from these computerized systems and avoid safety checks.  While warranted in some situations, these overrides can also unnecessarily harm patients, so ECRI urges caution on their frequency and the type of drugs doctor overrides apply to.

The practice of medicine is complicated, but there are standard levels of care expected from all providers.  When that level of care is not met and preventable errors are made, patients can be seriously injured or needlessly die.

If you or a family member was a victim of a serious error during medical care, turn to a medical malpractice lawyer for a thorough investigation in pursuit of the just compensation you deserve.

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

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Articles April 24, 2020

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