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Five Common Emergency Room Errors
Millions of people visit Florida emergency rooms each year with accidental injuries and illnesses. As many emergency rooms in Florida have closed over the last decade, more injured and seriously ill patients have been funneled to fewer emergency departments. This has increased their crowding and hectic pace and has heightened the risk of emergency room errors.
Emergency clinicians spend two-thirds of their time managing three or more patients, according to an American Academy of Emergency Medicine study. Yet, emergency physicians are interrupted 9.7 times per hour.
As a 2013 study published by the Journal of Experimental Psychology states, even momentary, seconds-long interruptions can derail one’s train of thought and lead to errors.
Overly quick and negligent decisions in emergency rooms can lead to serious medical errors.
If you or a loved one has suffered injury due to emergency room (ER) malpractice, it’s important to get legal help. To find out more about your legal rights, call Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney, at our toll-free number or reach us through our online form.
For your information, the following is a list of five of the most common emergency room errors:
Emergency room diagnostic errors account for 37 percent to 55 percent of medical malpractice lawsuits, according to the Physician Insurers Association of America.
By taking too little time to assess a patient’s symptoms and vital signs, emergency room doctors and/or nurses frequently miss signs of serious illness.
Dismissing complaints of chest pains, for example, has led to heart attacks being among the most commonly missed diagnoses in emergency rooms.
Meningitis (a bacterial infection with symptoms that include headache, fever and dizziness) and appendicitis (a condition marked by pain in the upper abdomen, nausea and fever) are also among the most-often missed diagnoses.
2. Communication / Handoff Errors
Communication errors in an ER can range from not clearly inquiring about or listening to a patient’s symptoms to failing to ask proper questions about the patient’s medical history.
The can also include what are commonly called “handoff errors.” These errors occur when clinically significant examination or laboratory findings about a patient are either inaccurately reported or omitted altogether when a patient is transferred from the care of one doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional to another. This kind of poor communication among medical professionals, particularly between different shifts of nurses and technicians, can prove deadly.
In the initial assessment of a patient, a medical professional should inquire about such factors as prior illness, medications the patient is taking, medications the patient is allergic to, disease or immunodeficiency the patient suffers or the patient’s possible occupational exposure to chemicals or other toxins. Lack of information in any of these areas can lead to a missed diagnosis or adverse reaction to treatment.
3. Testing Errors
Failing to order necessary tests such as X-ray, MRI or blood tests can lead to missed or incorrect diagnosis. In some ERs, physicians rely on outmoded tests. Additionally, incorrect analysis or understanding of test or lab results can lead to incorrect treatment or lack of treatment.
4. Medication Errors
A study that called for onsite ER pharmacists as a means of reducing medication errors said common errors in emergency departments include medications prescribed but not ordered, medications ordered but not given and inappropriate delays in obtaining and administering medications. Over 13 times more errors were recorded in the ERs that did not have a pharmacist present compared to ones with pharmacists present, the study’s authors said.
Medication errors include prescribing and administering improper medication as well as administering medications in the wrong dosage. Lack of a complete medical history from a patient can exacerbate medication problems if a medication newly administered in the emergency room reacts badly with one the patient is already taking or is a medication the patient is allergic to.
5. ER Policy and Procedure
An Institute of Medicine (IOM) study found that hospital errors are caused by faulty systems, processes and conditions that lead people to make mistakes or fail to prevent them. For example, the study said, stocking patient-care units in hospitals with certain full-strength drugs, even though they are toxic unless diluted, has resulted in deadly mistakes.
The Quality of Health Care in America Committee of the IOM concluded that it is not acceptable for patients to be harmed by the health care system that is supposed to offer healing and comfort.
Our Lawyers Help Emergency Room Error Victims Across Florida
The fast-paced environment of the ER is no excuse for ignoring patients who require treatment, failing to order necessary tests or misreading reports or symptoms. Such emergency room errors may constitute medical malpractice if they contribute to a patient’s illness or injury.
If you or someone close to you has suffered because of the negligence of a surgeon, doctor, nurse, hospital or another health care provider in an emergency room or emergency department, the medical malpractice lawyers of Philip DeBerard, Injury Attorney, are on your side. Since 1975, we have assisted patients harmed by medical errors. Not only are we knowledgeable in every aspect of Florida medical malpractice and personal injury law, but we work hard for our clients. We are ready to fight for justice on your behalf.
To learn more, call us today at our toll-free number or contact us through our online form. We’ll provide a free and confidential evaluation of your case.
- Medical Errors and Injury in Emergency Medicine, American Academy of Emergency Medicine
- Momentary Interruptions Can Derail The Train Of Thought, Journal of Experimental Psychology
- Evaluation of the effectiveness of peer pressure to change disposition decisions and patient throughput by emergency physician, The American Journal of Emergency Medicine
- ED handoffs: observed practices and communication errors, The American Journal of Emergency Medicine
- Hospitals Overhaul ERs to Reduce Mistakes, The Wall Street Journal
- To Err is Human: Building a Safer Heath System, Institute of Medicine