Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Medical Errors Behind Malpractice Claims

According to the Institute of Medicine’s recent report regarding medical errors in United States hospitals, each year one million hospital patients are injured - - and 98,000 die - - as a result of preventable medical errors costing an estimated $40 billion.

Common Types of Medical Errors

Preventable medical errors include:

● Medication – being given the wrong drug or dose, or drugs given at the wrong time or to the wrong patient

● Wrong-site surgery – surgeries performed on the wrong body part or
wrong patient or performing the wrong operation

● Hospital-acquired infections – infections caused by lack of proper hygiene (often because doctor or nurse fail to sufficiently wash hands) or use of defective medical equipment

Common Reasons for Medical Mistakes

Explanations for medical errors include:

● Misplaced patient charts or illegible handwriting

● Overworked, inexperienced and unsupervised interns and residents, often working up to 130 hours per week at teaching hospitals

● Nationwide shortage of registered nurses

● Increasing caseload demands on emergency rooms with limited funding

Precautions a Health Care Organization Should Take

To reduce occurrence of medical errors, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations issued uniform standards for caregivers including:
● Improve accuracy of patient information
● Improve effectiveness of communication among caregivers
● Improve safety of medications
● Reduce risk of health-care associated infections
● Reconciling use of medications across continuum of care
● Reduce risk of patient harm from falls
● Reduce risk of influenza and pneumococcal disease in older adults
● Reduce risk of surgical fires
● Encourage patients' active involvement in their own care
● Prevent health care-associated pressure ulcers
● Identify safety risks inherent in patient population

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