In a recent study published in “The Journal of Patient Safety”, as many as 400,000 preventable deaths occur each year in hospitals, with non-lethal preventable harm to patients soaring to an astounding 10 to 20 times that number.
The study faults the technical complexity of today’s medical system and the inability of medical professionals to keep up with clinical advances. The lack of an integrated continuing education system has led to deficiencies in knowledge and performance.
At the institutional level, guidelines are often out-of-date before they are published. Hospitals struggle with meeting staffing needs, patient care technologies and business decisions driven by production demands; all of which have lead to putting patients at high risk for Preventable Adverse Events (PAE).
The United States lags far behind other industrialized nations in implementing electronic medical records for its citizens. Patient care information is often incomplete or unavailable. Unfortunately, the U.S. has become known for its patchwork of medical care subsystems where patients are on their own.
PAEs are becoming more and more common due to the rapidly changing medical industry that has become highly technical and poorly integrated. Moreover, harmful outcomes may not be seen immediately but may surface days, months or years after treatment.
Types of PAEs
Causes of PAEs in hospitals include:
- Errors of commission
- Errors of omission
- Errors of communication
- Errors of context
- Diagnostic errors
Investigators searching for preventable harm must be aware of what they can find, and what they cannot. Obviously, the easiest detectable error in medical records is an error of commission, the mistaken action that harms a patient because it was the wrong action or it was the right action but done improperly.
Errors of omission are found in medical records when a prescribed action was necessary for the health of the patient, yet it was not. They are much more difficult to prove due to complex guidelines and/or post-discharge outcomes.
Error of communication can happen when a provider does not convey correct information to another provider or to their patient.
Context errors occur when a provider fails to consider unique issues in their patient’s life for which they are aware and could have a harmful effect or outcome.
There is a myriad of reasons for diagnostic errors: wrong treatment delayed treatment or ineffective treatment (which may also be errors of commission or omission).
As the report’s conclusion states: “The epidemic of patient harm in hospitals must be taken more seriously if it is to be curtailed. Fully engaging patients and their advocates during hospital care, systematically seeking the patients’ voice in identifying harms, transparent accountability for harm, and intentional correction of root causes of harm will be necessary to accomplish this goal.”
We Can Help
The Law Offices of Charles G. Monnett III & Associates has successfully represented clients and their families across the United States who have been killed or severely harmed by the negligence of others.
If you or a family member have been severely injured, please contact the Law Offices of Charles G. Monnett III & Associates for a no-cost, prompt and confidential evaluation of your case.