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Avoiding medical errors in the emergency room

The Doctors Company recently conducted a study about medical malpractice claims in emergency medicine. Of the 332 claims that were reviewed, 57 percent were due to failure to diagnose. The conditions that were not allegedly diagnosed included:

-- Myocardial infarction

-- Stoke

-- Pulmonary embolism

-- Meningitis

-- Fractures

-- And many more.

In some of the cases, a physician may not have actually seen the patient; however, the emergency medicine profession was assigned the malpractice cause.

In another 13 percent of cases, problematic treatment was listed, such as failure to screen for an overdose, no cervical collar used, which resulted in a patient's paraplegia and failure to address a patient's mental status change. Another 5 percent of claims alleged that the treatment was performed incorrectly or improperly, including not recognizing a foreign body in a wound, the placement of a chest tube and not intubating properly.

What was the number one reason for those cases? The study found that in 52 percent of the cases, there was a lack of medical information available. For example, that can include not ordering the right tests or failing to recognize important information in the patient's medical records.

One of the things that a patient and his or her family can do is to communicate. Make sure all medications that are taken are reported. Ensure you ask questions if you have any about your treatment or medications. Some tips for physicians would be to avoid handing off a patient unless necessary, look for prescription drug addictions and avoid a first-impression diagnosis. Many of the problems encountered that lead to poor care may be able to be avoided by simply communicating better on both sides.

If you have been the victim of medical malpractice, an attorney can help you determine how to proceed.

Source: KevinMD.com, "Tips to avoid medical errors in the emergency department," Roneet Lev, MD, accessed April 27, 2016

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