Patient Safety: Deadly Mistakes in the American Health Care System
If your doctor wants to admit you to a hospital for a needed medical procedure, would you refuse? Probably not. But consider this: a study published by the Journal of Patient Safety estimates that at least 210,000 hospital patients die each year from preventable medical errors, roughly equivalent to 365 jumbo jet disasters! That puts medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer. Refusing care is not an option for most people, but the NH medical injury attorneys at the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman, PLLC believe you should know how patient safety can help you survive a hospital stay.
NH Medical Injury Attorneys: Protecting Yourself and Your Loved Ones from Medical Errors
According to the NH medical injury attorneys at the Law Office of Manning & Zimmerman, botched surgeries, preventable infections, improper medications and misdiagnosis are far more common occurrences in our nation’s 6,000 hospitals than most people think. The bombshell dropped in 1999 with To Err Is Human, a report from the Institute of Medicine that estimated that between 44,000 and 98,000 people die each year as a result of medical errors.
Subsequent studies validated the Institute’s report, including a 2010 review by the Office of Inspector General that pegged annual preventable deaths among Medicare patients at 15,000 per month or 180,000 per year. Another 1.5 million people are injured, according to estimates published the same year from the Society of Actuaries. And in the Journal of Patient Safety report cited at the beginning of this article, it was estimated that the death toll is probably much higher, between 210,000 and 440,000 per year. Aside from the staggering level of human suffering, medical mistakes are costing Americans between $735 billion and $980 billion annually, according to an analysis presented in the Journal of Health Care Finance.
So while providers and policymakers debate how to address the “epidemic of patient harm in hospitals” as reported in Patient Safety, what can you do to protect yourself and those you love from health care errors? Plenty, according to the Joint Commission.
Start with Awareness and a Willingness to SPEAK UP:
- Speak up, ask questions, and ask again if you don’t understand. Know what to expect before and after a procedure, and if something changes, ask why.
- Pay attention and get the right treatments and medications from the right people; don’t assume anything.
- Educate yourself about your medical history: diagnosis, medical tests and treatment plan.
- Ask an assertive, informed family member to be there as your advocate to ask tough questions if you can’t.
- Know what medications you take and why. Bring a list that includes supplements and allergies.
- Use a hospital that has undergone rigorous on-site evaluation. Visit Medicare’s Hospital Compare, the Joint Commission’s Quality Check, and Leapfrog’s Hospital Safety Score.
- Participate aggressively in your treatment. Ask doctors and nurses to wash their hands before touching you; check ID bracelets before treatments and medication; and label a procedure site with a permanent marker.
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