Patients Who Are Most Likely to Suffer a Serious Medical Error

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Preventable medical errors have been estimated to be the third leading cause of death in the United States.  But are there some types of patients who are more likely than others to be victims of serious medical mistakes?

A 2016 study by John Hopkins Medicine’s Armstrong Institute for Safety and Quality placed medical errors behind only heart disease and cancer as the major causes of death in the country.  These errors include drug administering mistakes, surgical errors, hospital acquired infections, and many more.

Almost 800 Hospitals Fined for High Rate of Medical Errors

More than 760 hospitals across the country will see their Medicare payments from the federal government reduced this year because they have high rates of preventable medical mistakes.  A dozen Missouri hospitals are included.

This action instills a financial motive to reduce hospital mistakes but doesn’t establish what healthcare providers can do to avoid making them in the first place.

An article in the American Association of Critical Care Nurses takes a novel approach to this problem by identifying the types of patients who are most likely to experience medical errors, and why.

Certain Patients Face Higher Risk for Serious Mistakes in Care

Patients in isolation are at high risk for medical errors.  Patients removed from the general population typically are seriously ill.  However, because they are sequestered they can also receive less observation and care time from nurses or doctors.  The author states that these patients are eight times more likely to suffer a fall, pressure ulcer or fluid imbalance because of limited contact with caregivers.

Patients who don’t speak English well or at all – those who can’t communicate effectively with their caregivers – suffer a greater rate of care mistakes.  According to the white paper, individuals having a low competency with English experience harm from a medical error at a 50 percent higher rate than those who speak English well.  And the injuries they suffer tend to be more serious.

Along a somewhat related line, patients who are less able to process information that helps make sound healthcare decisions are in greater danger for medical errors.  This “health illiteracy” isn’t confined to those who don’t speak English.  It includes the inability to understand concepts related to health issues, recognize dangerous symptoms, decipher between various treatment options, and follow instructions, regardless of native tongue.

Older patients, minorities, immigrants, and lower income individuals are the patient groups more likely than others to have a low level of health literacy.

Financial penalties after the fact can play a role in reducing serious medical errors.  But healthcare providers have the responsibility to prevent them by recognizing and addressing all known possible factors, including those involving patient interactions.

If you experienced serious injuries or lost a loved one because of substandard medical care, consult a medical malpractice attorney, who will pursue justice on your behalf.

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

Authored by: Gray Ritter Graham posted in Medical Malpractice on January 27, 2017

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