Our medical malpractice attorneys have previously reported study after study indicating the problem of medical malpractice remains all too prevalent. Indeed, a study from the April edition of Health Affairs found that as many as one-third of hospital inpatients is the victim of a medical error. This can include bedsores, infections, falls, medication errors, and many other problems.
Of note, this Health Affairs study has prompted the Obama administration to introduce a new plan to reduce preventable medical errors.
The only reason why these errors are considered “preventable” is because medical professionals are trained to keep these types of injuries and deaths from occurring. When doctors or nurses deviate from accepted standards of practice, and a patient is seriously injured or killed as a result, that is considered medical malpractice. Certainly, there is much that hospitals, medical centers, doctors and other medical staff can do to prevent medical malpractice from occurring.
But is there anything that patients can do? For the most part, patients put their reliance in their doctors and other medical professionals to treat and care for them properly. There are, however, a few basic steps you can take to avoid becominga statistic.
Start by researching the hospital or medical center you or your doctor has selected for treatment. To the extent you have a health insurance plan that gives you some flexibility, choose a teaching hospital with a national reputation. Also research your surgeon, his or her experience, and ask about potential complications of the procedure.
During your hospital stay, try to have someone there with you to make sure you are doing ok. A friend, family member, or even hired nurse can keep an eye on things during your stay, and may notice things and think to ask questions when you cannot. A physician can also serve as a “care coordinator.” Ask your admitting physician, your specialist, or another doctor to keep track of all aspects of your care.
You should give this person a simple, easy to read summary of your medical history, any medical conditions or allergies you have, and any medications you are on. Better yet, keep a copy with you at all times. And remind anyone who gives you medication to check your ID bracelet — containing vital information, such as allergies — before medication is administered.
Hospital-acquired infections are potential killers — and are often easily prevented by simple hygiene. When doctors, nurses, and others enter the room, both you and your advocate should watch to make sure they wash and sanitize their hands before approaching you. If they do not, a polite reminder is usually all that’s needed, and may prevent a serious infection.
These simple measures will not prevent all, or even most, medical errors from occurring. The medical professionals and institutions must take action to reduce rates of medical malpractice. But if the measures mentioned above help reduce unnecessary injuries or deaths at the margins, they are worthwhile.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.