In 1999, the Institute of Medicine reported that nearly 100,000 people die in hospitals every year in the U.S. from preventable medical errors. In 2016, the problem is actually worse. A study released this year by Johns Hopkins University found that more than 250,000 deaths a year are caused by healthcare providers’ mistakes. That makes medical malpractice the third-leading cause of death in the United States. If you are a victim of medical malpractice in New York, take your case at once to an experienced New York medical malpractice attorney. Discussed below, the ten most common medical mistakes that lead to fatalities – and how to avoid them:
According to research recently published by the National Academy of Sciences and conducted by the Institute of Medicine, about twelve million adults are misdiagnosed every year in the United States. The word “misdiagnosis” defines several kinds of medical malpractice incidents: a condition that’s entirely unrecognized and undiagnosed; an inaccurate diagnosis; or a delayed diagnosis.
According to the AARP, diagnostic errors currently contribute to about ten percent of all patient deaths in the United States. Many doctors often miss more than just the obscure and exotic diseases. They also fail to catch common problems like developing kidney disease, pneumonia, heart disease, lung disease, and cancer. Misdiagnosis is the leading cause of payouts to medical malpractice victims.
2. FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE
Important medical details can easily get lost or forgotten, particularly at “transfer points” between doctors, clinics, hospitals, and – in hospitals – during shift changes. When a patient has multiple caregivers, communication problems increase. Patients themselves can forget details or fail to convey important information to caregivers. In other words, there are plenty of opportunities for things to “fall through the cracks.”
3. CARELESSNESS REGARDING HYGIENE
The AARP says that hospital patients acquire more than 700,000 infections every year including pneumonia, gastrointestinal infections, and urinary tract infections. On any day, about four percent of the patients in hospitals are fighting infections they picked up in the hospital, and every year, about 75,000 of those patients die from a hospital-acquired infection. A 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says hospitals are making progress in reducing infections, but much work remains.
4. PHARMACY MISTAKES
When a drug is prescribed, there are a number of places where a mistake can be made – by the doctor, the pharmacist, or by the patient. Ordering the right drug in the right amount and passing that information accurately to the pharmacist, filling the order correctly, and taking the drug in the right dosage at the right time are all essential, and a mistake can happen at any point in the process. Behind misdiagnosis, drug errors are the second most common kind of reported medical malpractice.
5. LACK OF MEDICAL KNOWLEDGE
Doctors are typically fairly smart people, but nobody can know everything. New medical research and findings routinely overturn ideas and practices that have been accepted for decades – and thousands of new studies and findings are produced every year. Doctors rely on pharmaceutical companies for details about drugs, and sometimes that information isn’t entirely reliable. Luckily, many insurance plans let patients get second opinions and see specialists, but too many patients don’t take advantage of those options.
6. INCOMPETENT DOCTORS
Incompetent doctors are rare, but they’re out there treating patients, and they can be hard to identify. When Consumer Reports obtained the state of California’s entire database of doctors on probation, they found several hundred practicing doctors who had been disciplined for overt negligence, practicing while under the influence, dealing narcotics, and sexual misconduct. The percentage of incompetent doctors is small – only one percent of doctors are responsible for a third of all medical malpractice payouts.
7. THE MYSTERY OF OUTPATIENT CARE
Almost everything we know about medical malpractice comes from studies conducted in hospitals. We lack extensive research regarding medical malpractice in clinics, rehab centers, and nursing homes, even though more care is given at those sites than in hospitals. While patients in such settings are generally healthier and more resistant to the consequences of medical malpractice, the fact is that a clinic with three or five people on staff probably won’t have a safety officer or someone dedicated to overseeing quality control.
8. INSUFFICIENT REFORMS
Even when a healthcare facility identifies a malpractice problem, reforms are likely to be piecemeal rather than system-wide. Everyone resists change, especially changes that involve workplace power and politics. Some doctors, for example, tend to resist any reforms that might give more “power” to nurses. Observe how your healthcare providers interact, and try to go with doctors who treat nurses and staff as teammates rather than as subordinates.
9. TREATMENT PLANS – SUFFICIENCY AND FOLLOW-UP
According to the AARP, one study in twelve cities found that about 45 percent of the patients in those cities never received all of the care that was originally recommended for them. Medical care is nuanced. Rather than an assembly line where illness A is countered with treatment B, most patients have several medical conditions. Treatment recommendations often conflict, so treatments must be carefully coordinated. Too often, that just doesn’t happen.
10. PROFESSIONAL BURNOUT
Taking care of sick people is hard on the soul and spirit. A study published by the Mayo Clinic in 2015 found that 54 percent of doctors in the United states report at least one symptom of burnout. Pressures, meetings, more patients to treat, more research to read – it can all come crashing down, and no healthcare provider is immune. The best thing patients can do is be friendly, and don’t waste time complaining to the healthcare providers about things they can’t control, like parking or the cost of prescriptions. If you bond personally with your caregivers, they’re more likely to go the extra mile for you.
WHAT IS YOUR RECOURSE?
If you or someone you love becomes a victim of medical malpractice in New York, there’s hope. Keep notes and records of all of your prescriptions, treatments, and visits to doctors. If you believe that you have been the victim of medical malpractice, bring your complaint to an experienced New York medical malpractice attorney. If the malpractice has resulted in a personal injury or a deterioration of your health, an experienced Bronx personal injury attorney will assess your situation and advise you candidly about the best way to proceed. Don’t wait if you are a victim. Our health is our most important possession.