Articles Posted in Medical Error

records-300x200Although patients can protect their own health by getting copies of their medical records, few consumers get them, and fewer still take advantage of the federal government’s push to make records easily  available electronically, one of Uncle Sam’s big public protection agencies reports.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office also warns that tumult in the nation’s health care system, notably in Congress’ roller-coaster deliberations to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, may disrupt patients’ relationships with caregivers. That makes it even more vital for consumers to have their health records.

The Association of Health Care Journalists deserves a tip of the cap for pointing to the GAO blog, where experts note that the ACA had supported a national push to get doctors and hospitals to adopt electronic health records with the aim of providing patients and caregivers more access and transparency about these crucial materials.

anesthesia-300x153Some of the very medical specialists who are supposed to put patients to sleep experience big problems themselves staying awake, with more than half of anesthetic trainees reporting in a new national survey in Britain that they had crashed their cars or nearly done so while headed home after long night shifts.

American doctors’ social media responses to this new research indicate that work weariness and drowsy driving are perils for practitioners on this side of the Atlantic, too.

The doctors’ complaints also underscores the irrationality of recent decisions by American medical educators to reinstate long shifts for interns and residents, trainees who play important—and sleep-deprived— front-line roles in providing medical services to too many patients in academic medical centers and hospitals nationwide.

kessler-203x300Even as congressional Republicans advance their counter-factual campaign to strip patients who have been harmed while seeking medical services of their rights to seek legal redress, another state appeals court has rejected key GOP arguments about medical malpractice lawsuits.

An appellate court in Wisconsin has declared unconstitutional that state’s $750,000 cap on non-economic damages, reinstating a jury’s decision that a Milwaukee woman and her husband should be paid $16.5 million for their pain and suffering after emergency doctors failed to inform her fully about the severity of a strep infection she had and that led to the amputation of her arms and legs.

The jury assessed total damages against the doctors and their insurers of $25.3 million, including $8 million for the medical and other care the 57-year-old mother of four will require for the rest of her life. But the defendants appealed the total, arguing the couple, under Wisconsin law, should get no more than $750,000 for non-economic harms like pain and suffering.

dna-208x300Pathologists are the medical specialists whom few patients ever meet, but they play increasingly important roles in treatment decisions. Some new reports raise concerns about systematic errors in the path lab.

The New York Times painted a surprisingly distanced picture of the work of pathologists in a recent report on these medical doctors who are trained to interpret an array of laboratory tests and often microscopic materials to determine the care for complex diseases.

The paper found that the specialists and their labs mislabeled and mixed up patient samples and results, as well as sometimes contaminating them—yes, rarely, but with potentially significant harms. Erroneous results could lead to misdiagnoses, resulting in patients getting wrong or ineffective treatment, especially for cancers, experts say.

maternal-300x170new investigation of one of the great shames of American medical care raises big questions about why labor and delivery is more dangerous to new mothers in the U.S. than just about anywhere else in the civilized world.

To their considerable credit, National Public Radio and Pro Publica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative news site, have joined forces to examine why 700 to 900 American women die each year from pregnancy related causes, and 65,000 nearly die.

The news organizations say Americans are “three times more likely to die in childbirth than women in Canada, and six times more likely than Scandinavian women.” And while U.S. maternal deaths are rising, their numbers were plunging in developed countries from England to South Korea.

sepsis-300x249Although public health officials have launched national campaigns against sepsis, it may be that new initiatives at the state and local levels will be more effective in battling the deadly scourge, particularly as it harms kids.

Sepsis, experts say, happens when the body is overwhelmed by infection and responds by shutting down key organs. It can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. It’s difficult to predict, diagnose, and treat. As Stat, the online news service, reports:

Sepsis hospitalizes some 75,000 children and teens each year in the United States. Nearly 7,000 will die, according to one 2013 study. That’s more than three times as many annual deaths as are caused by pediatric cancers. And some of the children who survive sepsis may suffer long-term consequencesincluding organ damage and amputated limbs.

doc-sleep-300x225Must doctors be absolutely impervious to common sense improvements in the way they train their own? Their bullheadedness has reemerged with the revisited decision by a major academic credentialing group to allow medical residents yet again to work 24-hour shifts.

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education clearly was on the defensive when it issued its memo on residents’ learning and working hours, guidance that academic medical centers and hospitals nationwide will rely on in setting workplace standards for the young doctors in whose hands so many patients will put their lives. The council noted that it had established a high-level task force to reconsider criticisms of residents’ stress and overwork and how this might imperil patient care, responding to an early rollback of shift hours:

“… The Task Force has determined that the hypothesized benefits associated with the changes made to first-year resident scheduled hours in 2011 have not been realized, and the disruption of team-based care and supervisory systems has had a significant negative impact on the professional education of the first-year resident, and effectiveness of care delivery of the team as a whole. It is important to note that 24 hours is a ceiling, not a floor. Residents in many specialties may never experience a 24-hour clinical work period. Individual specialties have the flexibility to modify these requirements to make them more restrictive as appropriate, and in fact, some already do. As in the past, it is expected that emergency medicine and internal medicine will make individual requirements more restrictive.”

hospital-bed-300x144Although hospitals continue to try to shrug it off, the damning evidence is building that far more Americans die of preventable causes in their care than previously thought, and “approximately 200,000” such deaths each year in the United States is “not unreasonable” as an estimate.

Those are the top-line findings from a team of doctors and public health experts who have published new research in the Journal of Patient Safety. Theirs was the fourth study in recent times to try to quantify what one of the research groups has described as potentially the “third leading cause of death in the United States,” those from medical error, especially occurring in hospitals.

A year ago, the Heartland Health Research Institute looked at Iowa and six surrounding states to assess what experts call preventable adverse events, and examining the existing studies that might offer national insights on the issue. These researchers found that it was reasonable to conclude that “250,000 patients [die] annually in U.S. hospitals due to preventable mistakes.”

newborninhospital_mhi_default-300x199Some new cautions have been issued on some key aspects of children’s health care. The federal government is increasing its warnings on anesthetic use for children and expectant moms, while a newspaper investigation is raising issues with common newborn screenings and their inconsistency and inaccuracy. Meantime, a health news site is adding to questions about a much-touted program to reduce head trauma harms in kids’ athletics.

FDA warnings on anesthetics for babies, expectant moms

Let’s start with the federal Food and Drug Administration cautions on “repeated and lengthy use of general anesthetic and sedation drugs” with children younger than 3 and pregnant women. The agency says it has been studying potential harms of these powerful medications for these two groups since 1999, and will label almost a dozen common anesthetics and sedation drugs with new warnings.

IVThree Washington, D.C.-area teaching hospitals have ranked in the lowest-scoring group nationally on preventing infections when their patients are hooked up to central lines, intravenous tubes that supply fluids, medications, and nutrients to those in dire need. Two institutions in the region rated highly.

Consumer Reports deserves credit for its continuing reporting on hospital acquired infections (HAIs), a scourge that in 2011 afflicted 650,000 already ailing Americans and which contributed to 75,000 deaths. The advocacy group says 27,000 patients were felled with central line infections in 2015, with a quarter of these especially sick and frail individuals dying of them. Treating patients for central line infections cost on average $46,000—more than for any other HAI.

The area teaching hospitals that the magazine ranked poorly, based on an analysis of federal data from 2011 to 2015, were: George Washington University Hospital, Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, and Howard University Hospital. The two high-ranking institutions were: MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center in Baltimore and Sentara Norfolk (Va.) General Hospital.

Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C. listed in Best Lawyers Rated by Super Lawyers Patrick A. Malone
Washingtonian Top Lawyer 2011
Avvo Rating 10.0 Superb Top Attorney Best Lawyers Firm
Contact Information