Medical mistakesThe Sun Sentinel published an article examining a new Health Affairs study on hospital admissions. The study shows that up to 1 in every 3 hospital admissions results in injuries requiring additional hospitalization or treatment. Last year in Florida, 168 patients died as a result of medical mistakes and an additional 386 were seriously harmed. These so-called mistakes included anything from a medication error, surgeries performed on the wrong body part or medical equipment left in a body during an operation.
Many doctors and patient safety advocates report seeing little improvement in patient safety. Despite protocols, technological advances, and a national emphasis on mistake prevention, the error rate has not been reduced. While the chance death as a result of medical malpractice has been reduced, there has been little change in the number of mistakes resulting in brain damage, the number of patients who need follow up surgery to correct problems or remove foreign objects, and on the number of surgeries performed on the wrong body part.
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Advocates also highlight that while this information is disturbing enough, it only considers grievous injuries to patients and, in fact, underestimates the frequency of harm to patients. Dr. David Classen, the lead researcher on Health Affairs at the University of Utah, said this data, “[misrepresents] to the public the safety of the system.”
The state of Florida only tracks the most serious incidents and some advocates like Dr. Classen argue there is not enough emphasis on prevention. The state tried five years ago to address medical mistakes by encouraging hospitals to report errors that had been caught before a patient suffered harm. After spending one million dollars, 90 percent of hospitals refused to report incidents.
The Health Affairs study showed that even hospitals with well established safety protocols have high rates of patient harm. As a Tampa medical malpractice attorney, I know the damage that can be caused by such medical malpractice. What medical professionals refer to as mistakes can destroy a person’s life, making him entirely dependent on others and costing families millions. More needs to be done to protect patients.