June 2014 Medical Errors Update

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Consumer Reports learns that medical errors are linked to 440,000 deaths each year.

When ex-NASA Chief Toxicologist’s John James 19 year-old son died after doctors at two hospitals treated him negligently he decided to dedicate his life to improving care in hospitals.  He went on to create Patient Safety America, an organization that educates people about risks they may face in hospitals. He later became active in Consumer Reports’ own Safe Patient Project, which works with people across the country who have been harmed by medical care.

In 2013 he reported on research he has been doing that indicates the number of people who die as a result of negligent care in hospitals stands at 440,000.   This makes medical malpractice the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States behind Cancer and Heart Disease.  That is more than 1,000 deaths per day.  Doctor James also points out that the numbers are difficult to pin down as many incidents that happen in hospitals go unreported and establishing a definite cause of death can be thorny.  Other studies have indicated the following number of deaths attributed to hospital negligence, and each year it goes up:

1999 – Institute of Medicine stated that up to 98,000 hospital patients per year die from medical errors.

2011 – Department of Health and Human Services estimated that 180,000 Medicare (just Medicare) patients each year die in part because of their hospital care.

Lisa McGiffert, head of the Consumer Reports Safe Patient Project, has developed three of the most important steps patients should take to stay safe in the hospital:

•           Have a friend or family member with you to be your advocate when you are unable to speak up for yourself.

•           Before a planned hospitalization, do your homework. Learn as much as you can about what to expect and ask about your treatments.

                                •           If something goes wrong, keep a journal documenting what is happening.

By far and away the biggest issue we see in today’s medicine is the lack of communication.  No longer does one person treat you.  In today’s business first medicine we see multiple providers for each patient and because of that, the loss of vital information.  To make matters worse, once one mistake is made it can be carried over again and again.  You must be your own advocate and watch out for yourself, the medical professionals just don’ t have time to do it for you.

Too see the full Consumer Reports Article, please click here.