We go to hospitals when we need medical care. Most of the time, we get the care we need. Unfortunately, there are instances when a stay at the hospital results in additional illness or injury. The issue is a problem; the National Institute of Medicine reports that almost 100,000 deaths are connected to medical errors yearly. The number has grown and is now one of the top causes of death in our nation, behind heart disease and cancer.
Step 1: Know the issue
The first step towards prevention is knowing about the issue. Some common medical errors include:
- Adverse drug events. This happens when a medical professional gives a patient the wrong medication or dosage.
- Infections. A stay at a hospital can increase the risk of certain infections, including catheter-associated urinary tract infections and central line-associated bloodstream infections. These infections can result from irregular cleaning of the devices and exposure to bacteria.
- Falls. A lack of assistance when a patient needs to move to use the restroom or a failure to secure the patient during a move properly, can result in falls and injury.
- Misdiagnosis. The failure to properly diagnose a patient’s ailment can result in a delay in treatment or provision of the wrong treatment — further injuring the patient.
- Never events. Certain accidents are called “never events” because they should never happen. They include surgery on the wrong site, the wrong patient, and leaving medical equipment at the surgical site.
Patients can also experience injury from too much bed rest, including bedsores.
Step 2: Proactive measures to stay safe
We can take steps to help reduce the risk of these issues. Patients are often their own best advocates. If a diagnosis seems off, ask questions. If you are not satisfied with the answers, get a second opinion. It is also helpful to engage in a conversation before taking medication. Ask what the medication is and verify the dosage. Also, be sure to inform your medical provider about any other medications or supplements because of the potential for an adverse reaction.
If falls are a concern because you or a loved one needs a walker or cane to get around, make sure it is available and within reach.
Step 3: Hold wrongdoers accountable
It is important to take a two-step approach to hold wrongdoers accountable. First, report negligent or reckless medical providers to the state board. This organization monitors those in the healthcare profession. They will investigate complaints and may move forward with penalties against the offender. This could include a suspension, required additional education, or even a revocation of their professional license.
Those who are seriously injured can also hold their provider financially accountable through a personal injury lawsuit. These two steps help remove a dangerous provider from your community while also deterring others from making the same mistakes.