Prior to the pandemic, with Covid-19 taking the lives of over a half a million Americans, the third leading cause of death was due to medical errors. According to a Johns Hopkins Medicine study, it is estimated that up to 440,000 patient fatalities and millions of injuries are the cause of preventable medical errors every year. It could be said that the healthcare industry sometimes causes more harm to patients than good, due to medication mix-ups, wrongful diagnosis, surgery mishaps, poor communications, and pure negligence. When permanent injury or death is a direct result of a deviation from the standard of care, it is known as medical malpractice.
From March 8th to March 14th, medical facilities and communities around the country observe National Patient Safety Week to help raise awareness for prevention. During this safety week, it is a good opportunity for patients to address concerns about their medical care and address these concerns with providers to help avoid unnecessary injuries. Speaking up is often hard for patients, leaving their trust in the hands of their health care providers. Although this seems like the right thing to do, it is important that when a patient is concerned about their care, the patient speaks up.
All patients in Connecticut have rights to safe care by competent medical workers. It is vital for patients to be informed and advocate for these rights.
Connecticut residents can help spread awareness in their communities by knowing the facts and where to access resources to help fight for safer care and avoid injuries and even death from medical errors. Knowing the most common medical mistakes is helpful for patients and their families to detect and avoid mistakes from happening.
Top 5 Medical Malpractice Threats to Patients:
When a patient seeks medical treatment they expect the outcome of their care to feel better, not worse. Throughout the healthcare industry, medical safety protocols, best practices, policies and procedures are created to prevent medical malpractice. Unfortunately, not all hospitals, facilities and health care providers manage these standards to be strictly followed, and fall short leading to serious injuries and even death due to preventable medical errors.
U.S. Consumer Reports has highlighted a list of the top five medical mistakes patients can help avoid during care:
- Avoid Falls
At least one-third of all medical facilities’ falls could have been prevented if the proper precautions were enforced. Falls are one of the most common accidents in a hospital setting and often the result of negligent medical practices. A patient who is left unattended or without fall protection equipment can suffer from broken bones, crushing injuries, or internal bleeding when a fall occurs. To avoid a preventable fall, assure that the hospital staff takes the right steps towards protecting you or your loved one. Medical personnel should be asking questions about your history of falls, stability, and current medications. They should also be testing your strength and ability to get up and stand on your own. This information is critical to creating a fall protection plan during your care, including choosing the appropriate equipment, bed, and staff to help during your stay.
- Avoid Medication Errors
Over 1.5 million patients every year are negatively affected by medication mix-ups. Medical facilities have been known to make critical errors, such as:
– giving the wrong dose
– giving the wrong medication
– giving medication too often
– combining medications that have adverse effects
There are countless ways that a medication error can occur, with protocols in place to prevent most of them from causing patients harm. Ask hospital staff for information on every medication you or a loved one is taking, their side effects, and why they are needed. It is important to check to make sure the nurse or pharmacist is administering/providing the correct doses the doctor has prescribed to avoid simple errors that result in devastating consequences.
- Avoid Antibiotic Misuse
Too many doctors, hospitals and medical centers are relying on antibiotics as a cure-all drug. Studies have shown that up to 50 percent of antibiotic courses are unnecessary or inappropriate. Patients who receive antibiotics they don’t need can become more susceptible to “superbugs” resistant to antibiotic treatment. Additionally, patients can experience negative effects of antibiotic treatments mixing with other medications that are actually needed during care.
Before taking any antibiotics, ask your doctor if it is necessary and why. Ensure the antibiotic is specific enough to target your ailment and not too broad, where it will have little effect.
- Avoid Improper Discharge
Chaotic discharges can lead to several medical errors that do not surface until the patient arrives home. As many as 1 in 5 people treated in the hospital will be back within 30 days of discharge for additional treatment of the same or different conditions.
Patients discharged before they are ready or given incomplete discharge instructions increase their risk for infections and further complications. Health experts advise all patients to meet with a discharge planner one day before they are planned to be discharged to sort out their release details. Ask for a written summary and copies of all paperwork you will be given to provide you with ample time to ask questions. Make sure the paperwork includes any tests, scans, prescriptions, and future appointments. It helps to have a some one with you when being discharged to hear the instructions, review the paperwork and ask questions.
- Avoid Too Little Activity
Patients who develop pressure ulcers, also known as “bedsores,” are typically suffering from neglect during care. Bedsores arise when patients are lying or sitting down for extended periods of time without moving. These injuries can worsen when left untreated, with severe cases resulting in amputations and even death.
Patients who are not moved enough may also be at a higher risk for falls. Lying or sitting down can weaken parts of the body and make it harder to move. Studies have shown patients with little movement when ill can experience trouble with balance even months after leaving the hospital.
The medical staff is responsible for making sure that you or your loved one is moved around enough to prevent bedsores’ occurrence during care. Checking to make sure this is actually happening is essential. If bedsores do occur, a plan should immediately be put in place to address the wound and prevent sores’ occurrence in the future. Ask medical staff what the facility’s policy and protocols are for addressing immobility and make sure they are carried out to avoid injuries.
How to Get Involved to Avoid Injuries and Death from Medical Malpractice in Connecticut:
- Raising awareness and starting conversations about patient safety in your community is the first step to inspiring real change. Here are a few ways you can make a difference during Patient Safety Awareness Week:
- Share facts about the most common medical errors and patient safety concerns to inspire others to join the cause.
- Take the pledge to reduce harm within the healthcare system. Healthcare providers and patients can both do their part to help.
- Join a local organization or group dedicated to seeking procedural or legislative change to improve patient safety.
- Gather support and speak to local medical facilities on changes you would like to see as patients.
- Share stories, resources, and events on social medial by using hashtag #PSAW20.
For more information on how to get involved, visit the Center for Patient Safety for additional resources!
Connecticut Medical Malpractice Attorneys
Hospitals and medical professionals have an obligation to prevent their patients from foreseeable harm. If you or your family has lost a loved one to medical negligence or has been injured by a medical error cause at a health care facility or by a provider, you may be eligible to receive compensation for any damages suffered. Contact Connecticut medical malpractice attorneys at Jacobs & Wallace for a free case evaluation and explore your options. Time for filing a medical malpractice claim is limited in Connecticut. It is important to act quickly to protect your rights. Our legal team has decades of experience fighting for the rights of injured patients and winning medical malpractice cases in Connecticut. Contact us today at 203-332-7700.