Medical errors are among the leading causes of death in this country. Many of our readers likely have heard this before. However, “medical errors” is a pretty broad term.
The causes of medical errors can involve technical failures, like the malfunction of equipment or medical devices, including implants. However, the most common causes of medical errors often involve human malfunctions, so to speak.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality identified some of the most common causes of medical errors. These include the following:
Communication problems: This was listed as the top root cause of medical errors. It can involve written and verbal communication. Poor communication, communication breakdowns or lack of communication can happen anywhere between doctors, nurses, other medical professionals and patients.
Inadequate information flow: You might think that this falls under “communication problems.” However, it occurs specifically when complete, accurate information doesn’t follow a patient as they move from one part of a hospital to another or from one facility to another. When information on a patient’s condition, test results, medication or other care needs isn’t communicated to those treating them, caring for them or prescribing medication for them, the results can be serious and even deadly.
Inadequate staffing: When health care professionals are overworked or are trying to take care of more people than they can adequately devote their time and attention to, they’re more likely to overlook serious issues or make mistakes.
Other common reasons for medical errors involve improper labeling, poor documentation, failure to follow policies and procedures, failure to provide the expected standard of care, and lack of knowledge. Sometimes policies and procedures aren’t adequately documented or don’t exist at all. In other cases, new employees aren’t adequately trained.
Despite the improvements in technology that help prevent many medical errors, there are still a lot of opportunities for mistakes to happen. Sometimes they are careless mistakes, such as grabbing the wrong dosage of a medication. Other times, they involve a serious lack of judgment.
If you or a loved one has been harmed by a medical error, it’s worthwhile to find out whether you have grounds for a medical malpractice case.