How to Prevent Serious Medical Errors in Hospitals

The political battle to fix the nation’s ailing health insurance system is a worthy one.  But there remains a larger healthcare issue to address – how to make the country’s health care safer?

Preventable medical errors are cited as the third-leading cause of death in the United States.  These mistakes include wrong site surgery, hospital-acquired infections, and medication errors.

The Leapfrog Group, an organization that grades hospitals for patient safety, recently noted that medical errors continue to kill nearly 1,000 patients every year. In its most recent safety grades, 42 percent of all hospitals received a “C” or lower for preventing medical errors that harm patients.

What can Hospitals do to Prevent Serious Medical Errors?

There are numerous steps hospitals can and should do in protecting their patients.  A culture throughout the facility that places patient safety as the priority is imperative.  This culture ensures good communication between healthcare providers as well as between providers and patients.

It’s been shown that shift changes – when one team of providers starts work and another leaves – are potentially dangerous times for patients.  Any miscommunication during patient handoffs can lead to omitted or incorrect care, so hospitals must establish effective communication protocols during these key transitions.

Medication errors are also often the result of miscommunication, either verbal or in writing.  Nurses should carefully review doctors’ orders and if written notes aren’t clear, they should consult with physicians prior to administering any medications.  Hospitals may also want to proactively get pharmacists involved in the prescription process to guard against dangerous reactions between meds.

Preventing Hospital-Acquired Infections

Hospital-acquired infections can be deadly and are largely preventable.  Healthcare providers should wash their hands as often as possible.  And medical devices must be thoroughly disinfected and properly disposed of when no longer in use.

Wrong-Site Surgery Should Never Happen

Wrong site surgery – when the doctor operates on the wrong part of the patient’s body – should never happen.  Checklists are a proven simple yet effective antidote. And doctors should clearly mark the part of the body to be operated on and check with the patient to ensure the marking is correct.

None of these solutions to preventing serious medical errors are that complicated.  Yet enough hospitals or physicians ignore them to the point where the number of people who die from healthcare mistakes has reached staggering levels.

If you lost a loved one or you were severely injured from what you believe is a mistake in medical care, turn to a medical malpractice attorney to 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, P.C., posted in Blog on May 10, 2017