The Institute for Healthcare Improvement estimates there are 15 million cases of medical errors in the United States every year. Additionally, there were hospital deaths of more than a quarter of a million among Medicare patients between 2004 and 2006 that were due to medical malpractice that might have been prevented. It is important to therefore examine four of the most common medical errors along with suggestions to help you reduce the risk of becoming a victim of medical negligence.
Medication errors – 80% of US adults use some form of over the counter medication, prescription medications, or dietary supplements in any given week. It is estimated that medication errors injure a million and a half people a year. The causes range from improper prescriptions, to sloppy handwriting, to confusion over similar drug names. It is therefore recommended that a patient keep a complete list of all medications, vitamins and over the counter medications that they take along with the dosages.
Poor communication between doctor and patient is another cause of medical errors. Ask questions, have all tests and diagnostics explained to you. Question your doctor as to any issues which you don’t understand or disagree over. Ask what else can be done, what other tests can be ordered and inquire about alternative forms of treatment or therapy. A good practice is to keep a complete medical file on you and all of your family members. Hospital errors including bed sores, falls, infections and failure to respond to patients in distress are common forms of hospital negligence. It is important that each patient have a family member or a friend act as a health advocate to monitor and follow up on the patient’s care.
Surgical mistakes account for thousands of injured patients every year. These include surgery being performed on the wrong patient or wrong sided surgery. Make sure to discuss the procedure in detail with your surgeon and have the surgical site marked with a permanent marker. If patients, their family members and health care advocates took on an active role in their medical care then many medical errors could be avoided.