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Addressing near misses to improve patient care

In the medical field, a 'near miss" means that an error made by someone worked out in the end. In other words, the patient didn't suffer long-term injury or loss of life because someone made a mistake. While hospitals and medical professionals in Massachusetts and states across the nation do all they can to properly care for patients, the fact remains that mistakes happen. Whether that error is a misdiagnosis or a surgery on the wrong part of the body, the fact remains that medical professionals are human, and sometimes humans make negligent mistakes.

Hospitals have taken a number of measures that they hope will lessen these errors. Computerized prescriptions, bar codes on patient wristbands and safety check procedures are just some of the ways medical facilities have put checks and balances in place for more effective patient care. However, one of the problems is that no one is tracking how many near misses actually occur.

Near misses fall into a category all their own. By their very nature, only those directly involved are aware of these mistakes. They might be too embarrassed or upset to come forward and explain their errors, or they might legitimately worry about legal reprisal. Medical personnel can keep the event and related feelings stuffed inside and never talk about it again. When someone in a position of authority talks about their near misses, it can embolden other medical practitioners and encourage them to come forward

Medical mistakes might happen when a doctor misses something obvious during a routine exam, incorrectly reads a chart, or neglects their duty. Negligent physicians can be held accountable if they injure someone or if the person dies due to their carelessness. A medical malpractice attorney might be able to help a client or their loved ones file a lawsuit in order to pursue fair and just compensation.

Source: The New York Times, "My Near Miss", Danielle Ofri, May 28, 2013

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