Dangerous Mistakes Often Made in Hospitals and How to Protect Yourself
Any time we learn that a friend or loved one has been hospitalized, there is immediate concern because hospitalization connotes an extremely serious situation. That said, we also often feel a sense of relief, knowing that the problem was diagnosed in time to obtain treatment. And because the dedicated medical care professionals and hospitals in this country typically provide a high level of care and treatment, there is great optimism for a positive outcome.
Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned. Sometimes, even in the finest hospitals, mistakes are made that result in injury and death. In this article, we will discuss some of the dangers lurking in hospitals, along with suggestions on how to protect yourself.
The Statistics Don’t Lie
According to research reported in Consumer Reports, an estimated 440,000 American patients die every year after they experience a hospital-based mistake. Moreover, many mistakes remain hidden - AARP cites research demonstrating that 86% of harm done to Medicare patients in hospitals is never reported. This Medicare study concluded that as a result of hospital care, one in seven patients died or suffered serious or long-term injuries. Amazingly, approximately 44% of the problems could have been prevented.
What Are Common Problems?
- Infections – Believe it or not, the Centers for Disease Control reported that approximately
722,000 Americans develop infections every year during hospital stays. In 2011, approximately 75,000 of those people died. It was reported in 2014 that hospital infections affect one in 25 patients. It’s even worse for Medicare patients, with one in nine acquiring a hospital infection. Ninety-five percent of hospitals failed to receive a top score for preventing these types of infections.
The greatest culprit is a simple lack of hand-washing by patients, doctors, and nurses. For when a hospital visit just isn't avoidable, here are some tips for avoiding infections:
- Even as a patient, wash your hands thoroughly with soap.
- Ask hospital personnel, including doctors and nurses, to wash their hands.
- Wipe surfaces down with bleach wipes.
- Attempt to find a hospital with good scores.
- Do not use teaching hospitals during summer months.
- Only use antibiotics when they are necessary.
- Falls – Consumer Reports, citing the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, warns
that approximately one million Americans fall down each year while hospitalized. The research also suggests that one-third or more of the falls are preventable.
To reduce the risk of falls, consider the following actions:
- Use a walker or cane, if needed.
- Don’t hesitate to request assistance when walking or when getting in and out of bed.
- Ensure that you have a clear walking path to the restroom or other areas to which you may need to walk.
- Make hospital personnel aware of any issue that increases your chance of falls, such as medications, dizziness, and prior falls.
- Medication Errors – Medication errors occur in a number of different ways. A doctor can
prescribe the wrong medication, or the wrong dosage of the correct medication. Bottles can be mislabeled. Doctors or pharmacists can overlook dangerous side effects or interactions with other drugs.
One of the best ways to limit medication errors is to stay actively involved in your own care, if possible. If not, have a friend or family member assist. Communicate carefully with your doctor. Make sure you understand new medications, including the correct dosage and how long you will be taking the medication. Understand side effects and if there are foods, drinks, or other medications that should be avoided.
Also, reconcile your list of medications you are taking with the doctor’s list of medications that you are taking. If you think that you should not take a medication for any reason, discuss it with your doctor first.
Call with Questions
At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, we appreciate the importance of quality hospitals in our communities. However, we also believe that those who negligently harm others, including hospitals, doctors, and nurses, must be held accountable for their actions to ensure that society remains as safe as possible.
If you have questions about a mistake made by a hospital or medical care provider, please feel free to call us - we will be happy to answer them.