How can medical mistakes be prevented?

Thursday June 6, 2013

Diagnostic errors are a leading cause of malpractice lawsuits. However, many medical mistakes can be prevented if medical professionals take basic safety measures and steps to ensure the safety and welfare of the patient. However, many patients are unaware of the mistakes that are or could be happening.

A pediatric infectious disease specialist was told his throat pain was the result of acid reflux. He ended up finding out that it really was cancer, which had grown, unnoticed, for seven months. This failure to diagnose resulted in the 72-year-old physician having to undergo surgery to remove his voice box. Now, only able to whisper, he believes the surgery may not been necessary had the cancer been detected earlier.

Color-coded labels and preoperative rests by a surgical team may prevent drug errors and wrong-site surgery. However, diagnostic errors have no simple or clear solutions. In addition, some situations are more prone to hospital negligence than others. Emergency rooms are common places where medical errors occur. The doctor on call may not know the patient or the patient may not be comfortable with the doctor. It is a harried environment where numerous interruptions happen very often.

Every day people place their trust and health in the hands of doctors and other medical providers. These professionals are still human and sometimes make mistakes. Studies repeatedly have found that diagnostic errors, more common in primary-care settings, are missed, incorrect or delayed in 10 to 20 percent of cases. Sometimes these mistakes can cause people great personal injury.

To determine where medical negligence lies, a legal professional should coordinate a detailed investigation into the situation and then recommend the best course of legal action to take.

Source:  Kaiser Health News, The Hartford Courant, “Misdiagnosis: More Common Than Drug Errors or Wrong-Site Surgery” Sandra G. Boodman, May. 18, 2013

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