Medical errors may be the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to a recent study by researchers at Johns Hopkins. Unfortunately, patients – who suffer the consequences of medical malpractice errors – are not always in the best position to identify potential errors or to protect themselves.
But there is hope. Although you may not have the training or experience to spot every mistake, studies show that medical malpractice errors are more likely to occur when certain factors are present in a hospital, office, or other clinical setting. Here are some “warning signs” that may indicate you’re at risk for encountering malpractice:
Information doesn’t get put correctly into your chart.
The more often you find yourself correcting information read to you from your chart, explaining things you have already explained, or answering the same questions from multiple staff members, the more likely it is that your information is not being recorded correctly. Accuracy in patient charts is essential – the more mistakes you find, the more likely it is that an error will result.
You agree with the doctor on a course of action, but the doctor doesn’t follow through.
For example, suppose you see your doctor about ongoing pain in your feet that keeps getting worse. Your doctor agrees to send you for X-rays as well as to see a specialist. But you never receive the paperwork to have the X-rays taken, and the referral to the specialist is never made.
When your doctor plans on a course of action, your doctor’s office needs to follow through. Lost paperwork, missing orders, and other “dropped balls” are not only inconvenient, they can seriously impair your health.
Staff seems confused about who you are or what you need.
Coordination by a patient care team includes communication about who each patient is, why they’re in the hospital or clinic, and what they need. If every new staff member you meet seems confused about what you’re doing there – or worse, seems to continually mistake you for another patient – it may be time to look for a new provider. Poor coordination can lead to patients receiving treatment or medication meant for someone else, with dangerous or even deadly results.