Preventable medical errors can cost you your health and possibly even your life. Each year people across the country die or are severely injured due to preventable medical errors. While we look to medical providers to diagnose and treat us, preventable medical errors can and do happen in healthcare settings. A new study detailed in an article by Yale University reported that most hospital medical errors involve poor monitoring or management of medical conditions. Diagnostic errors and errors related to surgery and procedures are also prevalent. While any medical error can be dangerous, there are some that are more common and can be more harmful.
Delayed Diagnosis or Misdiagnosis
A timely, accurate diagnosis is critical to your getting proper medical care. A fairly common medical error, delayed, or the wrong diagnosis can result in severe harm to a patient. Misdiagnosis may occur because a healthcare provider failed to ask the right questions or order adequate testing for a patient. A busy physician might order tests, but then fail to review thoroughly. Even if an accurate diagnosis is eventually made, a delay in diagnosis on the part of a healthcare provider can lead to the loss of valuable time in treating a serious illness.
Protect yourself from delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis
- Take an active role in your care. Advocate for yourself, and ask questions. Being involved as a patient can be very important in preventing diagnosis errors. Follow up on test results and speak up if you have doubts.
- Provide a full medical history. If you feel your medical provider is not asking enough about your history, speak up and provide as much information as you can.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion. Quality healthcare professionals support that decision.
- Bring a family member to appointments or to the hospital to ask questions and help get information from your doctor.
- Educate yourself and research your symptoms.
According to the FDA, a medication error is defined as any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the healthcare professional, patient, or consumer. Medical errors are one of the most common, preventable medical errors. Medication errors can occur when a patient gets the wrong medication or the wrong dosage. This error can occur on the part of a doctor writing a prescription or entering medication into a computer system, a nurse dispensing medication to a patient or a pharmacist error in filling a prescription. Medication errors are also caused by incorrect labeling on the part of a drug manufacturer.
The FDA has put many safeguards in place to help prevent medication errors. This includes barcodes that allow healthcare professionals to verify the right drug and dose is being given to a patient. They have also published guidelines to help manufacturers design drug labels and packaging to minimize or eliminate hazards that lead to medication errors.
To be proactive in helping to prevent medication errors, the FDA recommends that you:
- Ask your doctor the name and purpose of any drug you are prescribed, as well as the risks and potential side effects. Ask about drug and food interactions as well.
- Be sure you understand the directions in taking the drug, dosage, etc.
- Check the container label each time you take a medication. Don’t transfer medication to another container, so you can always check the original label.
- Keep an updated list of all of the medications you are taking.
- If in doubt about medication, double-check with your pharmacist or another healthcare provider.
Surgical Medical Errors
Mistakes during and after surgery can have devastating results. This includes medical complications and possibly even death. Surgical errors can include wrong-site surgery, wrong operation, operating on the wrong part of the body, leaving a foreign object in a patient, or operating on the wrong patient. Post-surgical errors can include neglect in providing proper post-op care.
Protect yourself from surgical errors
- A common theme for protecting yourself from medical errors is asking questions. Fully understanding your procedure and treatment can help you catch potential problems. Talk to your surgeon about the details of the procedure.
- Research your procedure.
- Take notes and detail everything.
- Request medical staff show you where they will be performing surgery and mark the spot.
Errors involving anesthesia can cause permanent injuries or death. They can include failing to evaluate a patient’s medical history for possible complications or failing to provide proper instructions. Administering the wrong dose of anesthesia, improper placement of breathing tube, or not properly monitoring a patient on anesthesia are other potential errors.
Be proactive with speaking with your anesthesiologist before surgery
Be sure you are supplied specific instructions prior to surgery that addresses preparation. This might include not eating or taking certain medications. You will meet your anesthesiologist on the day of the operation before surgery. If you have questions or concerns, be sure the anesthesiologist addresses all of your concerns.
Childbirth Medical Errors
Childbirth errors can have tragic results, harming both the mother and child. Birth injuries that may result from medical errors or medical malpractice include cerebral palsy, brain injuries, paralysis, and bone fractures.
Childbirth medical errors that can cause serious harm include:
- Not anticipating possible pregnancy and birth complications.
- Failure to diagnoses a medical condition or birth defect.
- Failure to respond to fetal distress.
- Not performing or delay in performing a cesarean section.
- Incorrect use of vacuum extractors or forceps.
To ensure proper care during childbirth:
- Seek regular prenatal care. Regular check-ups with your obstetrician and early detection of potential problems will help prevent complications. Be sure your doctor is carefully monitoring your health throughout your pregnancy.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Determine whether your selected medical professional is qualified to handle your birth. Are they skilled and experienced in handling birthing complications should they arise? Talk extensively with your obstetrician about your options and be well-prepared for delivery.
Lack of coordination between healthcare providers
In today’s medical world there are often multiple healthcare providers taking care of one patient. Communication and coordination are critical to the safe and successful treatment of a patient. A mistake in or lack of communicating can result in testing, treatment, medication, and other medical errors. Be sure your healthcare providers are all on the same page when it comes to your treatment.
Get help if you are the victim of medical errors
The most common contributing cause of medical errors is human error. A lack of training, fatigue, or simple carelessness can all contribute to medical errors. Charting and lab errors are common and can lead to patient injury. When there is a breach of duty on the part of a medical professional to provide competent care, it could be considered medical malpractice. If a medical error has injured you or someone you love, you need the help of medical malpractice attorney. A qualified medical error attorney can help when dealing with hospitals and their insurance company. The medical injury attorneys at Distasio & Kowalski can provide a free, confidential consultation. Our medical malpractice lawyers will work to determine if the injuries caused were due to medical negligence. Contact a medical malpractice attorney at Distasio & Kowalski in Wilkes-Barre today.