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Hospital Medical Errors Reported By Families Often Not Recorded, Study Finds

New York medical malpractice attorney discusses disturbing findings

Hospitals often fail to accurately document medical errors and adverse reactions to medical treatment of children observed by family members and reported to hospital staff, according to a recent, nationwide study.Medical errors are not being adequately reported

"Our results suggest that whether we are talking about safety surveillance research or operational hospital quality improvement and safety tracking efforts, families should be included in safety reporting," lead study author Dr. Alisa Khan, a researcher at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital, said in an interview with Reuters for an article published Feb. 27 about the study.

"The key finding from this study is that both clinicians and parents accurately recognize medical errors and adverse events, but the use of hospital reporting systems lags behind," wrote Dr. Irini Kolaitis, a researcher at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who wasn't involved in the study, in an email to Reuters.

Medical error study

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics publication published Kahn's study on Feb. 27. Titled "Families as Partners in Hospital Error and Adverse Event Surveillance," the study conducted by Kahn, Dr. Maitreya Coffey, Dr. Katherine P. Litterer and others sheds light on a serious problem of unreported medical errors.

The authors examined medical records for 717 patients under 17 years old treated at four pediatric medical centers in the United States between December 2014 and July 2015, according to an article about the study published Feb. 28 by Becker's Hospital Review. As part of the study, researchers interviewed parents of hospitalized children, doctors and nurses who treated the adolescent patients.

Overall, 185 families (26 percent) reported 225 errors, according to Reuters. Researchers classified the errors as follows:

  • 132 incidents classified as safety concerns
  • 102 incidents classified as non-safety related quality issues
  • 21 incidents classified as "other problems"

The chilling takeaway from the study: 49 percent of family-reported errors and 24 percent of adverse reactions reported by families were not recorded in the hospital's medical records, according to the Becker's Hospital Review article. That means dozens of significant errors were not documented - which likely means they may not have been addressed and were more likely to be repeated.

What are common medical errors?

Nationwide, medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death, according to Johns Hopkins surgeon, Dr. Martin Makary, whose findings were the focus of a March 6 article published by The Huffington Post. Makary published his findings in May in The BMJ, formerly known as the British Medical Journal. According to Makary, medical mistakes result in 250,000 deaths each year in the United States.

Medical errors can cover a wide range. Some of the most common medical errors include:

  • Misdiagnosing a patient
  • Prescribing the wrong medication
  • Performing the wrong surgical operation
  • Leaving medical instruments in a patient during surgery
  • Providing the wrong medical treatment due to misdiagnosing a patient
  • Failure to treat a medical condition due to misdiagnosis

Why do medical errors happen?

Medical errors occur for many different reasons. First and foremost, if a doctor misdiagnoses a patient, that patient will likely receive the wrong medical treatment or no treatment at all. And as the study cited above notes, many doctors misdiagnose patients because medical professionals don't listen to what their patients tell them.

An August 2015 JAMA article about "never events" (medical errors that should never happen) also noted that medical errors often occur due to "inadequate communication" between hospital staff and "illegible handwriting" by surgeons, doctors and other medical staff.

Other reasons why medical errors occur include:

  • Lack of training or experience
  • Inaccurate medical records
  • Sleep-deprived health care workers

Many other causes of medical errors exist. Whatever the reason, you or your family should not have to suffer because of someone else's mistake. That's why it's critical that you talk with an attorney as soon as possible about all the legal options available to you.

Many people choose to file a lawsuit to recover damages (financial compensation) for a medical error and to hold the responsible parties accountable. However, filing a successful medical malpractice lawsuit can be extremely challenging. That's why it's important that you have an experienced lawyer handling your case. New York medical malpractice attorney Jonathan C. Reiter has decades of experience handling some of the most complicated cases throughout the area.

There's no room for error after a medical mistake. Your health - and your financial future - could be on the line. That's why you need to make sure you carefully consider all your options. Contact our law firm and schedule a free case evaluation to learn more.

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