Dealing with Medical Errors

What is a Medical Error?

The definition of an “error” is “a mistake; the state or condition of being wrong in conduct or judgment.” While no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, it’s the particular environment where errors occur that can have devastating effects.

Since Covid 19, there have been many challenges presented in the world of healthcare. Some “key” predictions facing healthcare are the shortages facing hospitals and other medical facilities are increased medication errors which can lead to irreversible patient impacts and can increase the risk of further illness and mortality.

Why Worry about a Medical Error?

Errors made while doing your taxes can be much more benign than errors made in the hospital setting. Errors can occur in hospitals from housekeeping not putting out a “wet floor” sign to a cafeteria worker delivering the wrong food tray, to the lab, nursing, x-ray, respiratory therapists, transporters, doctors, etc.

Nonessential and expensive labs and tests can be ordered as well as unneeded therapies, incorrect medications, and dosages, as well as a diagnosis, being altogether incorrect. There are also the situations in which an actual error did not occur but the patient misunderstood what was going to actually happen. Has that ever happened to you? A 30 min procedure turns into an all-day procedure because you have to go through the pre-procedure phase and the after phase.

How can a Patient Advocate help?

One job of an independent patient advocate is to be on the lookout for potential errors or errors that have occurred, hopefully before they can affect the patient. Did you know in 2016 it was estimated that 205,000 deaths occurred due to hospital medical errors and are most likely to occur in intensive care units, operating rooms, and emergency departments?

This staggering number doesn’t account for the multitude of errors that occur in which the patient survives and is quite possibly unaware.

33% of medical lawsuits are due to “failure of diagnosis/delayed diagnosis” (MMR 2019)

Surgeons are most likely to be involved in a lawsuit, 85%. (MMR 2019)

Why do you need a Patient Advocate?

As independent patient advocates, we can be an invaluable asset in dealing with the subject of medical errors and mistakes. An even greater asset is if your patient advocate possesses an experienced medical background as they are more in tune with what to look for and they notice subtle potential mishaps or errors in care. Hospitals and other medical facilities will never be mistake or error-free. There will always be someone dropping the ball somewhere of various processes line up in an unfortunate outcome.  Having a patient advocate on your side is one of the best ways to avoid undue suffering and a safer hospital experience.

MMR-Medscape malpractice report