Whether you are admitted to the hospital or visiting your family physician, you expect that the person treating you will make you feel better and your health will improve.
Sadly, that is not always the case.
According to John Hopkins University School of Medicine, it is estimated that 10 percent of U.S. deaths and the third leading cause of death in this country is medical errors.
Medical errors have surpassed Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and strokes to take third in the ranks. Furthermore, one out of seven Medicare patients in a hospital are likely to be the victim of a medical error.
One important fact to note is that medical errors can occur anywhere in the healthcare chain and at any time. They may happen at the pharmacy, the laboratory, or in your physician’s office. While medical errors are common causes of injury and death, specific errors are more likely than others. By being aware of these standard errors, you may be able to protect yourself from becoming a statistic.
What Are the Root Causes of Medical Errors by Louisville Professionals?
While to err is human, physicians and healthcare workers are held to a higher standard. They are expected to follow specific protocols, regulations, and put their patient’s best interests up front. When a physician’s negligence leads to patient injury or death, they have committed malpractice.
Under state malpractice laws, patients or their loved ones can hold physicians accountable and seek damages for their losses. If you suspect that a physician has injured you or a family member has passed because of a medical error, contact a malpractice attorney right away.
Medication errors are becoming one of the most common errors in the United States. It does not help that most Americans are on at least one prescription – with some taking multiple prescriptions. The pharmaceutical industry is a billion-dollar industry because of the supply and demand. And while they might be at-fault in some cases, a lot of the medication errors stem from the physician’s office or pharmacy.
From giving the wrong medication to the wrong dosage or an adverse interaction, medications hurt approximately 1.5 million patients per year, according to the Institute of Medicine.
How to Protect Yourself
Before accepting a prescription or even letting the nurse at the hospital administer a drug, discuss what medication you are receiving, the dose, why you are receiving it, how much, and how often. That way, you can verify you are receiving the right prescription.
Communication is critical in a doctor-patient relationship. Sadly, the average time a physician spends with a patient today is only 13 to 24 minutes per patient. In those 13 to 24 minutes, a physician must examine a patient, make a diagnosis, and discuss treatment. That is hardly enough time to get every detail out, and that is where communication will break down. Physicians are in a hurry to move on to the next room and patients feel too rushed to ask critical questions. When the communication stops, someone gets hurt.
How to Prevent Communication Breakdowns
Be firm and ask questions – even if the physician seems rushed. If the physician refuses to answer your questions or you feel you are being pushed out the door, seek a second opinion and find a physician willing to spend time with you to discuss your health.
Technical Medical Errors
Technical medical errors are when a physician makes an apparent mistake such as amputating the wrong arm or cutting an artery that causes a patient to bleed to death. Unfortunately, these mistakes are hard for patients to prevent because they do not have control over the actions of their healthcare provider.
Failure to Use Indicated Tests
A physician’s lack of time makes it easier for them to skip over necessary diagnostic tests and present a diagnosis to the patient. This puts the patient at higher risk for a misdiagnosis. That means the patient could be treated for a condition they do not have while the real condition worsens.
For example, a physician fails to order an EKG for severe stomach pain and sends the patient home with an indigestion diagnosis. The next day, the patient suffers from a massive heart attack. Had the physician conducted the recommended EKG, the impending heart attack would have been found and the patient would have received emergency treatment.
How to Prevent This
If you feel that the diagnosis is not right, ask for a second opinion. It is your right to request a second opinion from another physician. Standing up for yourself could make a life-or-death difference when it comes to ordering tests.
Failure to Act on Tests
Maybe the physician ordered the indicated tests as per protocol, but then they failed to act on the results of those tests. When a doctor does not review the tests correctly, serious injuries can occur.
How to Prevent This
You can ask your physician to review the results of your test with you before accepting any new treatment plans. Forcing a physician to review the results again may ensure they catch anything that their hurried eye missed the first time.
Delay in Treatment
A misdiagnosis can lead to an unnecessary delay in treatment. Often physicians will wait to perform necessary tests or merely diagnose and treat without confirming via laboratory testing.
Preventing Delays in Treatment
While you cannot force a doctor to diagnose you or diagnose yourself, if you feel that you are being treated too hastily, you can request a confirmation of diagnosis through laboratory testing. You do not have to accept a treatment plan if your physician cannot prove that the illness or condition exists.
Another common error is when a physician fails to follow up after treatment has started. Whether it is to call and check on the patient, schedule follow-up appointments, or even check the patient before discharging them from the hospital, failure to follow-up could lead to severe complications.
Preventing Follow-Up Errors
Always be proactive in your care. After you start treatment, schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss how the treatment is working, concerns you might have, and alternatives if you feel it is not working. The more engaged you are in your treatment and the more you push follow-ups, the less likely your case will fall through the cracks.
Injured by a Medical Error? You Have Rights
If you are injured because of a severe medical error, you can protect yourself by speaking to a malpractice attorney.
Attorney Seth Gladstein at Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC can assist you with your case. He understands how devastating it can be to be injured by a physician that you trusted, and he can help you seek the compensation you need to cover medical costs, lost wages, pain, and suffering.
Contact him today for a free, no-obligation consultation at 502-791-9000 or request more information online.