Study Exposes Ongoing Hospital Safety Risks

Hospitals are facilities where ill and injured people should feel they are receiving the best possible care for their conditions. Unfortunately, a 1999 study found that medical mistakes were responsible for 98,000 deaths and more than 1 million injuries per year. This shocked the public and led many to perceive hospitals as hazardous to your health.

Since 1999, states, hospitals and patient advocates have been more involved in efforts to reduce medical errors and improve patient safety and health. Despite these efforts, the movement for patient safety has not produced all the positive results advocates hoped for.

Lack of Improvement in Hospital Safety

In North Carolina, a study was initiated from 2002 to 2007 involving 10 of the state’s hospitals. Researchers found that about 18 percent of patients were harmed by hospital care and that 63.1 percent of injuries were determined to be preventable. About 2.4 percent of the problems were found to be instrumental in a patient’s death.

The problems in North Carolina likely represent problems nationwide. “It is unlikely that other regions of the country have fared better,” explained Dr. Christopher Landrigan, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and lead author of the study.

Common Hospital Errors and Oversights

Most of the problems were caused by failure to use measures to prevent infections from the use of urinary catheters, ventilators and lines inserted into veins and arteries. Medication errors were also a major cause of hospital injuries affecting 162 of the 2,341 patients studied in the North Carolina project.

What Can Be Done?

Officials are also calling for a mandatory federal-level reporting system across the country so that hospitals can be held more accountable. An open and accountable system would give patients an open market to compare treatment and safety records, thus forcing hospitals to improve their services if they want to compete.

Computerized systems are only available in 17 percent of hospitals, although their implementation could decrease medication errors by about 80 percent. Other preventive measures that could be instituted include: improved communication, teamwork, computerized ordering systems, and better supervision and training of staff

Patients injured by medical errors are entitled to compensation in many instances. Hospitals, like physicians and staff, are held to certain minimum standards of care and can be liable for medical costs, lost wages, future medical care and costs, and a limited amount of pain and suffering. The spouse and minor children of patients who died as a result of negligent care or treatment can also be compensated for these damages as well as for loss of the decedent’s love and affection.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of hospital malpractice contact an experienced attorney. A lawyer can advise you of your options and work to hold those responsible for your suffering accountable.

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