There are several categories of serious medical errors, including misdiagnosis and medication mistakes. A most unfathomable type involves a patient who is incorrectly identified and given the wrong medical treatment or denied the proper care.
“Wrong patient” medical errors are preventable. They can create “never” events – a category of specific healthcare mistakes that are considered so heinous they should never occur.
Wrong Patient Mistakes can lead to Other Medical Errors
A wrong patient medical error is potentially dangerous because it can lead to any number of other devastating mistakes. A misidentified patient can:
- Be administered the wrong medication
- Undergo the wrong surgical procedure or the correct surgical procedure on the wrong part of the body
- Be misdiagnosed and receive incorrect medical treatment
The ECRI Institute Patient Safety Organization, a nonprofit group that counsels the federal government, hospitals clinics and insurance companies on patient safety, recently released the findings of a study it conducted on wrong patient medical errors. The organization reviewed over 7,600 such mistakes from 181 healthcare facilities.
One important finding is that nine out of 10 wrong patient medical errors resulted in no harm to the patient. But when a misidentified patient was injured because of the error, it often was catastrophic. Examples in the report include:
- A surgical patient in cardiac arrest was mistakenly not resuscitated when the healthcare providers followed a do-not-resuscitate order meant for a different patient
- A patient who had an abnormal electrocardiogram was given a cardiac clearance meant for a different patient. The patient underwent surgery and was found unresponsive in his hospital room the next day.
- A patient received a different patient’s hypertensive medication, at 10 times the intended dose.
Patients Misidentified In Various Health Care Settings
The ECRI researchers discovered that patient misidentification can happen anywhere in terms of healthcare setting or along the treatment phase. They found wrong patient mistakes in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, doctors’ offices, and pharmacies. Patients were misidentified during hospital admission, emergency room care, drug treatment, and surgical procedures.
Wrong patient medical errors can injure more than one person. A patient getting treatment meant for another means both patients potentially suffer. The misidentified patient can be harmed by the wrong care, while the other patient may be denied timely, correct medical treatment.
The introduction of electronic health records was assumed to help end wrong patient medical errors. However, the systems are not entirely foolproof. Humans still must enter the data and read it correctly.
When serious medical mistakes are made and patients are severely injured or die as a result, it can be difficult for patients or their families to obtain a clear explanation of what happened and why. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can investigate to get the answers and compensation their clients deserve.
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