Despite that an estimated 98,000 people die as a result of medical mistakes made in United States hospitals every year, such stories rarely make headlines. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, about one-fourth of all patients who enter a hospital in the U.S. will be harmed by a medical error. Each week, American surgeons reportedly operate on the wrong patient body part as many as 40 times, and errors made by health care professionals kill enough patients to fill four jumbo jets. According to researchers, between 20 and 30 percent of all medical tests and treatments performed throughout the nation are unnecessary. Additionally, medical errors reportedly cost Americans tens of billions of dollars per year.

Too often, the same reportedly preventable medical errors are made time after time with deadly consequences. Accountability in American hospitals appears lacking and it is difficult for patients to assess the overall safety record of each medical institution that may treat them. Dr. Marty Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, believes U.S. hospitals should be more transparent with regard to safety. American doctors allegedly overlook the mistakes of their colleagues quite often. Instead of using reported mistakes as a learning opportunity, Dr. Makary said hospitals and doctors shun or punish whistleblowers. He stated many new technologies available to hospitals and physicians should be used to track and report hospital safety.

One technology that by hospitals could use to increase safety transparency is an online dashboard. Online informational dashboards that report infection and readmission rates, surgical complications, and other medical mistakes would make it possible for patients to become more informed consumers. Additionally, such technology may report patient satisfaction scores, and the number and type of surgeries performed at an institution each year. According to Dr. Makary, public reporting can have a dramatic impact on a hospital’s response to patient safety issues.

Hospitals may also increase patient safety by analyzing the institution’s culture of safety. For example, a survey of 60 hospitals found that in facilities where the staff believes they work as a team with co-workers, mistakes and patient infection rates are reportedly lower. Dr. Makary stated good teamwork has a direct correlation with patient care and safety.

Another technology that may be used to improve patient safety in hospitals across the country is video cameras. Not only are doctors reportedly more likely to comply with best practices on camera, video of medical mistakes may assist administrators in altering hospital policies to ensure such errors do not occur again. Additionally, video of routine surgeries may be utilized as training tools and evaluated by peers in order to improve the quality of care provided to patients. Video may also serve to supplement the often limited notes in a patient’s chart.

Allowing patients to view their medical notes may also increase a doctor’s effectiveness. When physicians provide patients with access to their written files, misunderstandings and mistakes may be more easily corrected before they impact safety. Additionally, such transparency may help patients to ask important follow-up questions about procedures or other treatments. Too often, patients are reportedly asked to refrain from discussing medical mistakes. According to Dr. Makary, increased accountability for both doctors and hospitals is necessary in order to decrease often deadly medical errors.

Medical professionals in Indiana have a responsibility to provide a level of care that meets the accepted standards of practice for their profession. When a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, dentist, or other medical provider fails to meet that standard of care and a patient is injured, a medical malpractice claim may arise.

More Blogs:

Missouri Supreme Court Strikes Down Medical Malpractice Damages Cap, Indiana Medical Malpractice Attorney Blog, August 5, 2012

Debate Over Raw Milk Safety Rages in Indiana, Indiana Medical Malpractice Attorney Blog, July 6, 2012

Additional Resources:

How to Stop Hospitals From Killing Us, by Marty Makary, Wall Street Journal

Photo credit: Egilshay, Stock.xchng

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