How Hospitals Fight Back Against Medical Errors
February 5, 2020
In the United States medical errors are the third leading cause of injury and death. In response to this widespread problem, several hospitals across the country are taking steps towards harm reduction.
Different kinds of medical errors can result in serious and fatal injuries to a patient, including the incomplete or inaccurate diagnosis and/or treatment of an injury, disease, infection, behavior, and/or syndrome. Medical errors also occur when a facility or an individual provider fails to abide by the accepted standard of care, and a patient is harmed as a result.
Examples Of Medical Mistakes In Care Settings
Sometimes doctors or nurses make mistakes, and sometimes hospitals have ineffective or substandard training and practice guidelines in place. For example, one hospital discovered that contaminated medical equipment was to blame for a fatal infection that took the lives of three infants and made five others seriously ill. The facility did not have a written policy on how to clean equipment; the Department of Health issued a fine and the hospital drafted new guidelines. And, as an extra precaution the hospital stopped treating expectant mothers and premature infants temporarily.
A lack of supervision or the failure to properly identify emergent medical situations can lead to deadly results. At one facility, a patient passed away after being left unattended in their room for more than an hour, and in another, two patients died while still waiting to be seen by doctors. Revisions in policy led to both hospitals implementing round-the-clock supervision in triage areas, and having medical personnel perform routine checks on patients in waiting rooms. Supervision is critical when it comes to successfully identifying new or worsening symptoms that may require emergency intervention.
Mislabeling test kits and results also presents a major obstacle to patient safety. In just four months, one hospital made 100 mistakes in labeling patient blood – and at least one person died because of it. A man had numerous heart attacks after he was given the wrong blood type via transfusion. In response to the entirely preventable tragedy, the hospital enacted a multi-part harm reduction plan, which included:
- Reviewing policies on documenting and labeling test results,
- Revision of related policies, and:
- Educational training programs for staff members
Making sure that blood transfusions are not contaminated with bacteria is also crucial in limiting avoidable – though deadly – infections. One of the most effective ways that hospitals can ensure safe blood handling is to have up to date policies, implement safeguards for blood transfusions, and to provide staff trainings before accidents and mistakes happen.
And lastly, medical personnel should always be sure to monitor a patient’s vital signs. While it may seem simple, it is actually one of the primary lines of defense against potentially fatal outcomes. One hospital was cited for failing to adequately monitor a patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature after she gave birth via cesarean section (C-section). Despite her first heart rate reading being high, no follow-ups were conducted and the patient ended up dying, leaving her newborn infant behind. Every facility should have comprehensive guidelines on monitoring a patient’s vitals and ensuring that the results are communicated between staff.
What To Do If You Were Injured
Studies suggest that approximately 250,000 people die every year because of preventable medical mistakes. Hospitals that come up with solutions when faced with deadly problems should serve as examples to other facilities around the country – because without making serious changes, too many people are getting hurt, becoming sick or dying. When a facility or individual provider makes a mistake or departs from the generally accepted standard of care and it results in harm to the patient, the injured party may want to consider filing a medical malpractice claim. Filing a medical malpractice claim can help cover medical costs and provide wage replacement after catastrophic, avoidable injuries. To learn more, contact a representative at our firm who can help.
Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers at Galfand Berger, LLP Representing Injured Individuals Since 1947
Galfand Berger has offices located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading our attorneys serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form.