No Decline in Deaths from Preventable Medical Errors

hospital%20beds.jpgPatients who are hospitalized for treatment are just as likely to die from preventable medical errors, as they were a few years ago. There has been little progress in preventing these errors and saving patient lives, in spite of education campaigns and other efforts. That information comes from a study conducted at several North Carolina hospitals.

The researchers reviewed 2,341 patient records in 10 hospitals in North Carolina. They used a list of 54 red flags to indicate a possible adverse event, including readmission to hospital within a period of 30 days and bed sores. The study found at least 588 instances in which patients were harmed by medical care. That works out to approximately 25.1 injuries for every 100 hospital admissions. Those are staggeringly high numbers for any Indiana medical malpractice attorney to stomach.

The study was conducted in North Carolina because of the solid patient safety programs that are implemented in that state. The researchers believe that if the results from North Carolina are this bad, it’s reasonable to expect that the rest of the country is not doing much better either.

Not every injury was serious or fatal. An overwhelming majority of the injuries were temporary, and could be treated. However, more than 42% of the injuries required the patient to be hospitalized for additional time. What was worrying was that in close to 3% of the cases, patients were left with permanent injury like brain damage. 162 cases in the study were traced to medication errors. It’s highly likely that the actual figures are much higher, because of the vast under reporting of medical errors that goes on in American hospitals.

The insight to take away from the study is that preventable medical errors in American hospitals have not declined as much as Indiana medical malpractice attorneys would have wanted them to. The current procedures to prevent medical errors, like checklists, are either not being implemented properly, or there are other factors contributing to errors that we need to look closer at. For instance, the relationship that exists between a doctor and a nurse could discourage a nurse from speaking out in the operating room when she notices an error. Perhaps we could be analyzing these complex interpersonal relationships in a hospital and how they impact patient safety.