Top Patient Safety Concerns That Cause Dangerous Errors

How does a serious medical error happen – one so severe that it leads to a patient’s death?  Often times the answer involves intertwining causes; a fact reinforced by the list of patient safety concerns recently published by a leading safety group.

Founded 50 years ago, the ECRI Institute is an independent, nonprofit organization whose goal is to protect patients from medical mistakes, both human and technological.  It annually publishes a list of what it sees as the top challenges to patient safety in the United States.  It just released its latest version: “2019 Top 10 Patient Safety Concerns.”

Misdiagnosis from Poor Communication

The first patient safety concern involves technology and medical misdiagnoses.  Electronic health records (EHR) are increasingly being employed to replace paper patient charts.  But the ECRI Institute offers cautions with this technology.

EHRs can lead to poor communication, which can lead to patient harm or death, per the report. When key information is entered incorrectly into an EHR – test results, treatment plan, and follow-up after treatment – the patient may be victim of a serious misdiagnosis.

Poor communication is the chief cause for another top ERI Institute patient safety concern for this year: detecting changes in a patient’s condition.  Communication breakdowns when a patient is transferred between care units in a hospital, or between hospitals, can prove deadly.

The ECRI Institute notes that poorly trained staff may be a danger as well. Healthcare providers not adequately equipped to recognize changes in a patient’s condition following a handoff in shifts or units only compound communication errors.  The authors urge hospitals to invest in training that covers communication and patient assessment, as mistakes in either of these areas are not only preventable but also potentially catastrophic.

Lack of Proper Training and Medical Errors

Ensuring that healthcare providers are up to speed on using medical equipment and performing medical procedures is a top ERCI Institute patient safety concern for 2019.

The report specifically mentions instances when patients were harmed because providers didn’t know how to safely use robotic-assisted surgical systems or infusion pumps.  Other adverse medical events stemmed from mistakes when inserting catheters or treating mothers following childbirth.

Another top concern this year involves growing health systems.  As healthcare organizations merge and get bigger, they need to make patient safety the priority, establishing standard safety efforts and measures system-wide.

Large hospitals and hospital groups must adopt a culture of patient safety that allows open communication and delivers a commitment to learn from errors, not hide them, so they aren’t repeated.

When a patient is severely injured or dies from a mistake in medical treatment, unraveling what went wrong and why can be daunting.  If you believe you or a loved one were a victim of a serious medical error, discuss your case with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer.

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

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog March 15, 2019