Although scientific advances have continued to improve healthcare processes around the world, the United States still has a serious problem with medical errors. It has now been 20 years since the landmark government report titled “To Err is Human” was first released to the public, sparking a national conversation about the problem of medical negligence – and in more recent years, researchers have also identified medical error as the third leading cause of death in American adults.
Unfortunately, medical errors haven’t just continued to plague our healthcare system: The rate of these errors has actually increased, in spite of all the recent technological strides. At The Mellino Law Firm, our medical malpractice lawyers can help you pursue justice if you’ve been affected by medical negligence. By holding doctors and hospitals accountable for negligent actions, we can all begin to move towards a brighter and safer future.
So why exactly has the medical error crisis continued, and how can we fight back against this problem? In this post, we’ll explore one of the key factors behind the ongoing medical error epidemic.
What Are Medical Errors?
Doctors and other medical professionals have a duty to meet the “standard of care” required for each patient interaction, and when they fail to do so, their actions may be classified as a medical error. Ranging from poor hospital communication to serious surgical injuries, medical errors put millions of patients at risk each year – and collectively cost the United States more than $1.8 billion in medical malpractice lawsuits.
Common medical errors include:
- Missed or delayed diagnosis
- Incorrect diagnosis
- Hospital-acquired infections
- Surgical errors
- Lack of communication about test results or prescriptions
- Prescription and medication error
Understanding the Problem of Physician Burnout
While there are dozens of factors that have contributed to the U.S. medical error crisis, one problem stands out above the rest. Although technologies like electronic medical records and 3D imaging devices are making the healthcare delivery process more streamlined, doctors are now more likely to “burn out” as a result of using these sophisticated and fast-paced tech solutions. This pattern is supported by the data: One recent study confirmed that today’s physicians are spending twice as much time with screens as with their patients, and another showed that over half of all doctors are now showing symptoms of burnout.
Why Does Burnout Matter?
Marked by memory loss, inattention, and a tendency to view patients as objects, physician burnout is far more than just a lack of engagement at the office. Widespread physician burnout has real and lasting consequences on the quality of our health care, making doctors and medical professionals twice as likely to make crucial medical, prescription, or diagnostic errors with their patients. In a busy hospital setting, even smaller mistakes can easily be amplified when professionals fail to communicate across department lines.
Here are a few examples of how physician burnout could impact your care:
- Missing obvious signs of illness: A physician that spends too little time with their patients might rush through their initial diagnostic assessments and test result analyses, leading to a major misdiagnosis. Whether you are under- or over-diagnosed, you may suffer from multiple medical-related injuries as a result.
- Increased risk of “never events”: Surgeons and skilled medical specialists work in a high-stakes environment, so when they are suffering from burnout, the risks of causing a dangerous “never event” increase. From leaving behind surgical implements in a body cavity to operating on the incorrect body part, surgical errors frequently result in life-threatening injuries.
- Giving you the wrong medication: Prescription errors can happen when a physician doesn’t take the time to fully review your medical record or confirm whether you have medication allergies. Because physician burnout can lead to inattention and memory loss, prescriptions may get mixed up along the way.
How Can Technology Help Reduce Errors?
While technology may have indirectly led to the phenomenon of medical burnout, it has also generated a compelling solution to the problem. According to an article published in Harvard Business Review, incorporating ambient clinical intelligence (ACI) systems into our current healthcare process may reconnect doctors to their patients and eliminate the overwhelming burden of electronic data-entry – thus reducing instances of physician burnout across the board.
Cloud-based and unobtrusive, ACI systems combine the best of artificial intelligence, biometrics, and speech recognition technologies to capture all the important details during a patient’s visit. They can also respond in real-time to physician requests and highlight crucial details from a patient’s medical history; for example, by recommending alternative medications that will avoid a deadly interaction. Although ACI is still in testing and development, early studies show promising results for both physicians and patients.
Seeking Compensation After a Medical Error
When your life has been changed because of a careless medical error, you shouldn’t be left to handle the physical and emotional aftermath on your own. Although burnout may be endemic to the current healthcare system, it will never be an acceptable excuse for physicians to violate the standard of care when it comes to their patients’ lives.
A civil lawsuit can sound daunting when you’re recovering from a serious injury, but at The Mellino Law Firm, we can offer the compassionate counsel and dedicated support that you need throughout the legal process. With over 30 years of experience and a proven track record of results, our legal team has gained a reputation for navigating even the most complex medical error cases. Because we focus our entire practice on medical malpractice, you can rest assured knowing that your case will be a top priority for our seasoned attorneys.
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