Medical Errors Are Costly and On the Rise

April 29, 2010

Research has shown that medical errors may result most frequently from system errors. One out of 25 patients in hospitals are injured due to medical errors, and an estimated 48,000 to 98,000 patients die from these errors a year. Even if you consider the lower estimate of 48,000 errors a year, it is still higher than the annual mortality from motor vehicle accidents (43,458), breast cancer (42,297), or even AIDS (16,516), thus making medical errors the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. These errors, besides causing death, have also cost the economy from $17 to $29 billion each year and cost more that $5 million a year in large teaching hospitals, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

For Patients at Risk, Medical errors may result in the following:

– A patient being given the wrong medicine – A clinician misreading the results of a test – An elderly person that shows up to an emergency room with ambiguous systems, such as: shortness of breath, abdominal pain and dizziness, whose heat attack is not diagnosed by the medical staff

How Errors Occur:

– Medication Errors:
These are preventable mistakes in the prescribing and delivering of medications to a patient, these errors include: prescribing two or more drugs whose interaction is known to produce side effects or prescribing a drug to which the patient is allergic to.

– Surgical Errors – Diagnostic Inaccuracies:
This leads to ineffective treatment and/or unnecessary testing, which is costly and can be invasive to the patient.

– System Failures:
This is the way health care is delivered and the way that resources are provided to the delivery system.

Medical Mistakes are also made by distracted nurses. It is believed that if medical facilities had more nursing staff that could focus their attention on fewer tasks at a time that medical mistakes would decrease, patient safety increase and it would reduce the risk of medical malpractice. When nurses are interrupted, it increases the chance of a procedural failure by 12.1%, and the chances of a clinical error by 12.7%, as indicated by the Archives of Internal Medicine study published in Australia in 2008.

Hospital Acquired Infections on the Rise

April 20, 2010

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports that there are over 2 million hospital infections acquired each year, resulting in almost 90,000 deaths annually. This number is much higher when dealing with nursing home infections.

It is because of this huge number of yearly deaths that Medical Malpractice lawsuits have increased in the United States. Experts believe that these potentially life threatening infections can be prevented if steps are taken by hospitals and their staff. The steps that need to be taken should include: improving the methods of handling catheters during insertion, leaving them in for shorter periods of time and improving hygiene. Also hospital staff should was their hands more frequently and make sure to keep areas more sterile and catheters clean.

The hospital acquired infections include Postoperative sepsis, catheter-associated urinary tract infections and other preventable infections. Hospital stays are prolonged because of these avoidable infections and patients are also more likely to die from these infections, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) 2009 National Healthcare Quality Report released earlier this year.

The biggest increase of hospital acquired infections occurred in sepsis infections. Sepsis is when a full body inflammation occurs as a reaction to an infection. Symptoms of sepsis include high heart rate, high respiratory rate, high and/or low body temperature and elevated white blood cell count. All of these symptoms can cause organ damage and in some cases organ failure, which lead to death in about 20 to 35% of cases.

Hospitals in the Washington Metropolitan Area, such as Washington Hospital Center (WHC), George Washington University Hospital (GWUH), Sibley Memorial Hospital (SMH) and Georgetown University Hospital (GUH), are making much needed changes to try and reduce these infections and deaths in order to avoid Medical Malpractice Lawsuits. These medical facilities are devoting more attention to patient safety in order to ensure that health care does not result in patient harm.