The Epidemic of Preventable Medical Errors in America

Every year in America, around 440,000 people are killed as a result of preventable medical errors. Many suffer serious injury due to medical negligence. This is a fundamental problem that has become an epidemic in this country. Preventing these errors would not only save lives, it would lower health care costs, reduce doctors’ insurance premiums, and protect the health and well-being of patients.

Quanisha is just one of numerous examples of the damaging errors occurring in hospitals throughout the United States. She underwent a routine surgery to remove a goiter in her neck in a Little Rock, Arkansas hospital. Within 12 hours she became short of breath and felt her neck tightening up, and she relayed her worry to the nurses. Her condition was never reported to the physician, nor was she monitored, and she soon began having seizures. She suffered severe brain damage, is bed-ridden, and will need constant care and supervision from her mother for the rest of her life.

Doctors later found that she suffered a preventable blood clot that could have been taken care of, had she been properly monitored. Stories like these are far too commonplace today. Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in our country. They cost our country tens of billions of dollars each year.

Despite these horrors, there are Congressmen and state legislatures working very hard to limit the accountability of hospitals and medical staff for their negligence. Our civil justice system provides a way for families of deceased loved ones in these cases to have access to accountability. It also serves as an incentive to the health care industry to improve patient care. When accountability is removed, people will be at even more risk of death or injuries.

One in three patients who are admitted to the hospital will experience a medical error (Health Affairs). Wrong site surgeries and procedures, or “never events” are happening at an alarming rate of up to 40 times per week in American hospitals (Archives of Surgery).

These errors can include mistakes such as missed diagnoses, the use of incorrect or unproven treatments, mistakes in surgery and drug prescribing, and preventable problems such as bedsores, which can lead to infection and death. Strategies offered to medical facilities and staff include actions as simple as hand washing.

The epidemic of patient harm must be taken more seriously. Patients must be fully engaged with advocates during their hospital care and must use their voices to report and identify harm that’s been done. Only then will those who have risked lives by being negligent be held accountable.


Hospital Falling Accidents…Yes, They Still Happen

One of the leading causes of death in the United States is medical mistakes and mishaps, like patients having hospital falling accidents.  By the year 2013, one would think many of these types of mishaps would be eliminated, especially in safe, secure hospitals, right?  Wrong!

An article just recently reported a devastating falling accident involving a female patient. She needed to use the restroom but couldn’t get a nurse to respond.  She attempted to make it on her own, fell, and dislodged her neck plate that had just been surgically implanted.  Not to mention she suffered other injuries as well.  What if that was your mother, would you be upset? Why are patients so susceptible to falling in hospitals, sometimes to their death?

Studies point to various factors that contribute to hospital falling accidents:

  • Side effects of drugs and combinations of drugs or are unknown by nurses.
  • Patients are over-medicated and side effects cause instability.
  • Environmental safety measures, such as lighting, assistive devices, furniture, clinical alarm systems, housekeeping, properly fitted shoes and clothing, personal assistance when needed to enable safe transfers and patient movement, partial side rails, keeping patient rooms and hallways free of clutter, and keeping objects within reach of the patient.
  • Insufficient Procedures, such as physical distance nurses travel on a hospital unit to care for patients, documentation time, and fragmented communication between caregivers
  • Issues related to toileting – Over 50% of falls happen when patients attempt to go to the restroom.  Many claim they felt the nurses seemed too busy and didn’t want to ask for help.
  • Overcrowding in Emergency Rooms, where most patients enter the hospital. are well known for hospital falling accidents.

Most Falls are Predictable and Preventable

The most frustrating thing about these accidents is that they are all preventable.  The problem is that it is usually after the fact when hospitals begin working on preventing them.  Hospitals are required to follow certain guidelines to prevent these occurrences, but they are falling short.  Hospitals are often understaffed, have too many patients for caregivers to handle, and this is resulting in neglect, injury, and even death. 

Most falls are predictable and preventable when risk factors are used to guide fall prevention strategies—only a very small percent of hospital falls cannot be predicted (seizures, drop attacks, cardiac arrhythmias, stroke).Ann Hendrich, MS, RN, FAAN 

Too often, fall prevention strategies begin after a hospital falling accident occurrence, not before. This is a key reason why some fall programs fail to consistently reduce the overall fall index/injury rate over time.

There are risk management companies designing environmentally safer rooms, and using alarms, pressure monitors, and various other devices in an attempt to eliminate the problem.  So far, though, they don’t seem to be helping.

If a person is injured due to the negligence of hospital staff or safety precautions, the hospital can be liable for those injuries. Hospital negligence leading to patient fall and injury is sometimes a form of medical malpractice for which injured patients and their families can seek compensation. It is best to consult an attorney to determine if there is a strong case, and what the best options are for building that case, or filing a civil lawsuit. If hospital falling accidents are truly preventable, hospitals must eliminate the deaths and injuries…There’s just no excuse.