Reducing Medical Errors Proving to be a Difficult Task
Very few professionals are as highly regarded as those who work in the medical field. Naturally, when we’re sick, we trust and hope that our doctors know what is in our best interests and that they guard strenuously against any errors that would harm us.
The medical field has attempted to reduce medical errors that harm patients. But medical errors are a continuing source of patient harm and have been for many years. An Institute of Medicine study performed over a decade ago found that the number of patients killed by medical error may nearly reach in the six figures annually. Despite recent calls for reform, patients continue to be harmed and killed by medical shortcuts, inadequate training and communication lapses.
Some simple solutions to reduce medical errors continue to not be implemented. For example, the airline industry uses checklists to prevent against human error, a method that has been proven effective in hospitals. Yet the medical community has not fully embraced such checklists and often puts too much faith in the idea that doctors never make mistakes.
Other examples of medical error are more blatant. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 125,000 patients have been notified since 1999 of potential exposure to Hepatitis and HIV because medical providers used one needle on multiple patients.
This prompted the CDC to begin its “One & Only” public health campaign that provides posters and instructional material to medical providers to remind them to use a needle for one patient only. Unfortunately, the practice of using one needle for multiple patients continues. In July, 2012, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment noted that thousands of Colorado dental patients are now at risk of blood-borne diseases because at one dental office, some needles were used multiple times – in some cases over a period of days.
Other Possible Systemic Safety Measures
While certainly some medical providers simply provide grossly inadequate care, systemic, preventable medical errors by competent doctors could be reduced by taking certain practicable steps. Doctors can be hesitant to reveal medical mistakes for fear of lawsuits. Ensuring that medical error reporting is open and transparent can greatly improve patient care and decrease the cost of healthcare. Some steps may include:
- Researching and implementing error prevention techniques
- Providing transparency by setting standards for identifying and collecting data on medical errors
- Enforcing existing and future medical safety standards through legal and regulatory reform
An Attorney Can Help
It can be difficult for a patient harmed by medical error to know what steps to take. If you have been harmed by a preventable medical mistake, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney to discuss your legal options moving forward.