July 15, 2013
ONC plan aims to protect patients through EHR data analysis alone
In a move that has disappointed many safety-minded experts and organizations, the federal government has declined to establish a new agency designed to investigate certain technology-related patient deaths at this time. Rather, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is putting in place a collaborative plan to prevent these particular kinds of patient deaths.
Currently, more and more healthcare providers and hospital facilities are shifting towards electronic health records (EHR) instead of paper-based charts. These electronic records are meant to reduce rates of communication-related errors and misdiagnosis. However, the technology itself has the potential to create new kinds of errors resulting from software glitches, implementation challenges and data input problems.
The Institute of Medicine has recommended that the government create a new agency tasked specifically investigating patient deaths tied to EHR-related errors and other technology-based problems. The government is declining to act on this recommendation at this time. Instead, the ONC will work with public and private organizations to attempt to prevent these deaths in the first place.
Prevention of patient deaths through trend-related data analysis is absolutely a goal worthy of pursuit. However, such initiatives fail to address those deaths which have already occurred and continue to occur in a focused way. It seems that both prevention and investigation of tragedy are necessary in order to both foster patient safety in the future and bring justice to the victims of technology-related medical errors.
The ONC is making important progress by embracing its new prevention-related mission. However, targeted investigations into deaths that do occur are necessary for patient safety and justice as well.
Source: Forbes, “Government Asks Health IT Industry To Police Itself On Patient Safety,” Zina Moukheiber, July 5, 2013
March 1, 2013
Grappling with a misguided medical malpractice system
Healthcare providers will inevitably make mistakes. Though physicians and nurses are trained to treat every patient in accordance to certain standards of care, healthcare providers are human and will make mistakes from time to time. It is correct that these providers be held accountable for the mistakes they make, should those mistakes cause patients harm. Patients aim to hold providers responsible and obtain the compensation they deserve through medical malpractice claims.
However, the inevitability of mistakes on the part of providers should be informing the functionality of the medical malpractice system more than it currently does now. Based on a physician’s area of expertise, he or she will face a medical malpractice claim every seven years or so. These claims should be processed with appropriate urgency and then if the physician has not behaved so negligently that his or her license is suspended, he or she should then be allowed to return to work informed by the knowledge that his or her mistakes have real consequences.
Unfortunately, the medical malpractice system functions largely without the expectation that nearly all physicians will face malpractice claims over the course of their careers. The legal battles over these claims drag on so long that a recent study published in the journal Health Affairs indicate that 10 percent of any given physician’s medical career will be spent dealing with these claims.
The current structure and procedures governing the medical malpractice system are contributing to patient harm and physician resentment. If the system was more prepared for the fact that physicians will make mistakes and should be held accountable for them, perhaps doctors could practice more medicine and patients could receive their due more quickly and efficiently than they can currently.
Source: Forbes, “Medical Malpractice: Broken Beyond Repair?” Robert Glatter, Feb. 6, 2013
October 15, 2012
Prevention of Medical Errors is Possible
One of the biggest problems with medical mistakes is that the same mistakes are made again and again. It seems that the medical community does not learn from their mistakes, which is unfortunate, especially for those patients who are on the receiving end of the medical errors.
The financial cost of mistakes and preventative measures that try to avoid making medical errors runs into the billions of dollars. A large percentage of medications, tests and procedures are unnecessary; they are run in an attempt to avoid lawsuits for medical malpractice.
The pressure among colleagues to not call out another practitioner’s errors is intense. A doctor or intern could be shunned, given the lowest possible duties or forced out of a job if they complain about another medical professional’s practice or mistakes. Hospitals are also reluctant to publish statistics about their performance, making it harder for patients to make an informed choice.
Some possible solutions to this problem are obvious and actually have helped reduce errors in some cities. Suggestions include:
• Provide an online dashboard that could show potential patients which hospitals and surgeons have the best ratings for successful medical operations and results.
• Cultivating an internal atmosphere that allows any medical professional freedom to speak up when they notice a potential error.
• The use of cameras and video recordings of procedures is another good way to get compliance with best medical practices and to help avoid mistakes.
• Allow patients to review doctor’s notes immediately to catch errors of information.
• No gagging of patient reviews of their doctors.
When mistakes are preventable, it is unconscionable for the medical community to resist any improvement that could benefit their patient population.
Source: Wall Street Journal, “How to Stop Hospitals From Killing Us,” Marty Makary, September 21, 2012
Our law firm represents individual harmed by medical mistakes. For more information, please visit our medical malpractice page.
September 24, 2012
Medical Mistakes are On the Rise
According to a survey done by Wolters Kluwer Health, almost 75 percent of Americans say they are concerned about medical errors and almost half say they are “very concerned.” The concern is not unjustified considering 30 percent of the people surveyed reported that they, or a loved one, have been a victim of a medical error and 20 percent report that have been misdiagnosed by their doctors.
Doctors, nurses, hospitals and emergency room staff make errors and those errors can have a catastrophic effect on their patients. Medical mistakes include prescribing the wrong medication or treatment, prescribing a medication that adversely reacts to another medication, providing the wrong dosage of medication and misdiagnosing illnesses.
When medical mistakes happen patient safety is at risk.
Causes of Medical Mistakes
The Wolters Klewyer Health survey asked 1,000 participants about their experiences with medical mistakes, why they think medical mistakes occur and what patients can do to help prevent medical errors. The participants identified many of the common causes of medical errors such as:
- Miscommunication between hospital staff
- Hospital understaffing
- Work overload
- Hospital staff fatigue
- Lack of proper sanitation
The survey also revealed that the majority of Americans have attempted to prevent medical errors by taking action. Those actions include validating a doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan by doing independent research or getting a second opinion.
While taking steps to validate a course of treatment or diagnosis may prevent some medical errors, it will not stop them all. If a medical error or misdiagnosis has caused you to suffer serious injuries or caused the wrongful death of someone you love, an attorney can help you protect your rights.
Source: equities.com, “Survey: Nearly One in Three Americans Report Experiencing Medical Mistakes, Either Themselves or Among Family and Friends,” August 15, 2012
Our firm handles cases like the one mentioned in this article. For more information, please visit our hospital negligence page.