How a Medical Mistake Can Lead to Big Changes in Quality of Care

As we have said before on this blog, medical mistakes happen all around us in hospitals from Connecticut to the West Coast. While some medical mistakes are minor and do not result in the injury of a patient, this isn’t the case every time. And as you can imagine, all it takes is one mistake to change a patient’s life forever.

When you are in the hands of a medical professional you trust that they know what they are doing and will give you the best care possible. This immediate trust in a medical professional comes from the fact that in the United States, hospitals and medical staff are required to provide the best care they can. If they fail to provide this high standard of care, they can open themselves up to litigation such as a medical malpractice lawsuit.

But do you know why we have these care standards in the United States? You may be surprised to know that the rules many hospitals have in place to stop medical mistakes from occurring were actually established because of past mistakes. Let’s see how this can happen using the example of medication error.

Medication errors can happen due to a number of circumstances. If a doctor’s handwriting isn’t clear, a pharmacy may accidentally prescribe the wrong medication or wrong dosage. If a doctor isn’t paying attention, they may accidentally write down the wrong medication altogether. In a number of doctor’s offices and hospitals, this has led to the use of digital prescriptions so that mistakes are less likely to be made.

Other medication mistakes include nurses administering the wrong medication or wrong amount to a patient, resulting in new systems that force nurses to check and re-check a patient’s chart to prevent an error. To avoid anesthesia mistakes, the American Society of Anesthesiologists has even stepped in to provide standardized anesthesia practices for hospitals across the nation.

Medications errors are serious not only because they can lead to litigation but because of the profound effect on a person’s life they can have. If a medication error results in the death of a patient, the victim’s family is also affected. That’s why it’s so important for hospitals to avoid such mistakes, though our Fairfield County readers know that avoidance doesn’t always happen.

Source: Medscape, “10 Medical Errors That Changed the Standard of Care,” Accessed Oct. 10, 2014

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