When you are a patient, you always trust that you are in good hands. You completely believe in the decisions and skill of your doctors and nurses. However, sometimes even they can make mistakes, and these medical errors can have serious impact on patients. According to statistics, approximately 200,000 people die every year in the United States from medical blunders that can be easily prevented. Several patients are accidentally injured or killed due to the irresponsibility of doctors and medical staff, who have failed to double check their medical records and diagnosis before starting the treatment plan. Therefore, medical error has been reliably identified as among America’s leading causes of death.
According to a recent report by Martin A Makary and Michael Daniel- Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, and it claims that over 251,000 people die in hospitals as a result of these errors. Medical errors play a pivotal role in determining medical malpractice in the healthcare industry. Here are the ten essential medical errors everyone should know.
According to a survey, more than 160,000 hospitalized patients suffer from permanent injury or die each year because the doctors misdiagnose a condition, arrive late at a diagnosis or miss it entirely. Wrong diagnosis or misdiagnosis of any disease condition can lead to poor or no treatment of the actual disease; thereby doing more harm to the patient. Therefore, as a patient, it is important that you come informed about your health condition. If you are not satisfied with your consulting doctor’s opinion, do not hesitate to take a second opinion.
Treating wrong patient
If you are unlucky to have your identity mixed up with someone else in the hospital, you may end up receiving wrong medications that were not meant for you. In worst scenario, you may end up with a surgery that was not intended for you. To avoid such mistakes, hospitals give a wrist band to patients with their name, date of birth and a unique bar code. Make sure that the same is checked and verified before each medical procedure is done.
Surgical tools left inside patient’s body
While some may find this funny, this is a serious medical error that may result in major complications. This error happens more often than one may imagine. This mistake typically happens when the surgical staff fail to count or miscount the number of surgical equipment during the procedure. Amongst the tools left behind, the surgical sponge is the most common one, which is used to absorb the blood. Odds of such mistake increases if one is undergoing an emergency surgery.
Air bubbles in blood
After removal of chest tube, the hole in the chest needs to be sealed properly to make it airtight and it should be ensured that no air bubbles can enter the wound. If air bubbles enter the wound then they can cut off the blood supply to heart, lungs, brain and kidneys, which can be life threatening. Before the removal of chest tube, check with nurse as to how you should be positioned to ensure air bubbles do not enter the hole and remind the nurse to make sure the seal is airtight.
Hospital acquired infections are very common and they can lead to serious complications as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of infections is highest in ICUs, NICUs, the pediatric ICU, and are estimated to occur in five percent of all acute hospital acquired infections. Most of these infections can be prevented if the doctors and nurses follow the simple standard routines such as washing and sanitizing hands between each patient. Also, the hospitals should maintain the required standards of cleanliness and sanitization. If attention is paid to small things, then these kinds of mistakes can be avoided.
Another common medical error is that the doctors prescribe wrong medicines or a wrong dose, which can lead to side effects, even fatal at times. While some of these mistakes look small, they can impact patients in significant manner. This is one of the most common mistakes that is made, and despite knowing side effects of some medicines, doctors end up prescribing them. Keeping oneself updated in the latest in the field of medicine is of utmost importance. Error in medication may not be just related to prescription, it may also be in terms of administration. The nurse may end up giving wrong medicine or a wrong dose to a patient, due to negligence.
Medical errors can also be seen in the lab department. Lab errors can be truly devastating as they can lead to wrong diagnosis, as well as wrong treatment. Some of the common errors related to lab testing include MRI or CT scans taken incorrectly, blood or urine samples collected incorrectly, or results misinterpreted.
Although not very common, but equipment failure is among the top ten medical errors that can cause serious injury or death of the patient. Medical and diagnostic tools that are not in proper working condition or have dead batteries can lead to serious injury or death. Some of the commonly used equipment that can malfunction and cause damage include heart defibrillators, x-rays, anesthetic machines and more. Most of the hospitals and clinics have annual maintenance and servicing contracts to maintain the efficiency and functionality of medical equipment. However, a minor delay in servicing or repair can result in equipment failure that can prove fatal for the patient.
Another leading cause of medical errors is patient falls. This can be due to several reasons- for example, when a patient who has trouble getting around attempts to do so without any help, reaction of drugs, mobility issues etc. In fact, 10% of falls for the elderly occur in hospitals. Other causes of falls include trouble with balance, confusion, increased patient to staff ratio and sedation. Therefore, elderly people and those with mobility issues should ask for assistance as soon as they enter the hospital premises.
Lack of coordinated care
Disaster can strike when there is lack of co-ordination between the treating doctors and staff. When one of your doctors does not know what the others are doing, can result is insufficient treatment, wrong treatment, delay in treatment, over medication, and of course frustration on the part of the patient.