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Common medical errors and how you can stop them

Medical mistakes happen all the time in hospitals in Connecticut. While some are minor and don't seem to have much impact on a patient's health, others are disastrous. In fact, medical errors cause the deaths of 100,000 people each year in the U.S. So, what types of errors are leaving patients worse off than when they initially sought medical treatment? The Huffington Post offers a good list of the most common errors seen in U.S. hospitals.

The first two have to do with failing to properly read a patient: missed diagnosis and missed warning signs. In both situations, patients are not given the treatment they need to recover from a health issue, and both can lead to serious injuries and even death.

The next three are related to unnecessary occurrences. They are unnecessary treatment, unnecessary tests and procedures, and uncoordinated care. The way our medical system currently operates, doctors often get paid for doing more work. For patients, this can translate into more tests and more procedures. However, often these tests and procedures do not need to be done in the first place. Similarly, failure to coordinate care can mean a patient receives the same test multiple times when notes get lost. Unfortunately, the more you poke and prod at patient, the more likely he or she is to acquire additional health problems.

Finally, grave mistakes like medication errors and so-called "never events" can cause permanent injuries and even death in hospital patients. Giving a patient the wrong medication or forgetting to administer medication while a patient is in the hospital can both have extremely negative effects on people who are in a fragile state of recovery. Never events, such as performing the wrong surgery on the wrong patient or leaving a medical tool inside of a patient, have the most obvious repercussions. Often, these result in medical malpractice lawsuits.

While these medical errors may be frightening to read about, just knowing that they exist can keep you safer as a patient. Additionally, being clear and direct with your doctor about symptoms and questioning why tests are being ordered can go a long way toward ensuring that a medical error doesn't happen to you.

Source: Huffington Post, "10 Things That Can Kill You in the Hospital," Leana Wen, April 3, 2013

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