A recent study indicates that preventable patient harm results in some 400,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, making it the third leading cause of death in the nation. Some physicians have gone so far as to call this negligence a routine aspect of the business of healthcare, and one that we can little afford to continue to tolerate.
Speaking before the Senate Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging, a team of experts explained that patient harm is not accurately measured, and that without clearer and more useful metrics, the medical community and patients face several difficult hurdles. For starters, it’s difficult to determine how much harm is being done in the first place, and it’s impossible to measure the effectiveness of any reforms that might be put in place without accurate data on preventable harm.
The medical mistakes at issue include a wide range of types. Among the most common are errors related to prescription drugs: studies indicate that up to 25 percent of patients may experience harm related to drugs within a month of prescription. Errors of diagnosis are also a major problem, as misdiagnosis and failure to diagnose can lead to improper or delayed treatment, creating a snowball effect. Additionally, unnecessary tests, treatments and procedures are regular features of the American healthcare system. Hospital-acquired infections, malfunctioning medical devices and inexcusable errors — medical tools left in a patient’s body after surgery, for instance — are just a few more of the mistakes that harm numerous patients each year.
Some experts and researchers are calling for the establishment of a National Patient Safety Board, as well as a national patients’ bill of rights, to improve the investigation and reporting of medical errors and to set higher standards for patient care. These steps, they say, will help patients make educated choices and motivate the healthcare system to improve its performance.
If you believe you have suffered an injury related to a medical procedure, an experienced San Diego medical malpractice attorney can help. Contact Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire for more information.