Earlier this week, a US health news piece entitled “In a review of 337,000 patient cases, this was the no 1 most common preventative medical error” by Meera Jagannathan was made available on msn.com. This article echoes the findings of two pieces I have referenced previously, the first, a book called “Internal Bleeding: the truth behind American medicine’s terrible epidemic of medical mistakes,” written in 2004 by two internists Dr. Robert Wachter and Dr. Kaveh Shojania. The second was the Leapfrog Study which looked at deaths caused by medical errors toward the turn of the century. A link to the recent article is below.
The article reveals the results of four medical studies that analyzed medical death rates from 2000 – 2008. Of the just over 251,000 medical deaths, 9.5% of the deaths could be attributed to medical error. In other words, 1 out of 10 deaths could have been avoided as they resulted from a medical error.
The article focuses on nine things that should be done to reduce medical mistakes. I will just list them, but please click on the article link below.
- Make sure you fully understand the procedure and why it is necessary.
- Brief the doctors on your allergies, health conditions and medicines.
- Don’t assume every provider has access to your records.
- Bring a friend or family member if the patient is not good with asking questions about what is happening.
- Keep close track of your medicines and results.
- Make sure the doctors and nurses wash their hands.
- Research wisely.
- Don’t be afraid to speak.
- Ask providers what they are doing to prevent mistakes.
The Leapfrog study noted three things to reduce deaths due to medical errors.
- Have complex surgeries performed in centers of excellence where they have done multiple hundreds or thousands of the procedure.
- While dated, poor handwriting of prescriptions or instructions caused mistakes. Most hospitals now have electronic orders, but be sure you understand what is being asked or prescribed.
- Make sure there are doctors on site and not just residents in intensive care units.
I wrote earlier about the book “Internal Bleeding,” so I provided a link below. Reviewing that summary and comparing to the above, here are a few more thoughts from that post as well as a few others thrown in.
- write a summary of your and your family medical history
- write down what your symptoms are – people see the white coat and forget.
- if you are not sick or injured, the hospital is the last place you should be; some hospitals incent ER doctors to admit patients; ask questions about this.
- know your environment; if you have bladder or some other cancer it may be environmental not familial. Bladder cancer is a bellweather environmental caused cancer.
- ask for other pain medications beside opioids; they should be only used for severe pain and for short durations.
- introduce yourself to all providers; make sure they know who you are.
- Complete the prescription regimen and don’t stop when you are feeling better.
Medical professionals do not want medical errors either. So, help them help you. And, if you have trouble advocating for yourself, take a trusted person with you.