Albany, New York Personal Injury Blog

“Never events” in hospitals more common than thought

18
July
2013

New York residents may be surprised to discover that surgical errors and negligence are far more common than most people believe. While many individuals assume that hospitals have practices in place to prevent medical errors, a number of life threatening mistakes are made in health care facilities across the country. One particular type of error, called a “never event,” is so-called because it should never happen for any reason. However, these events occur up to 11 times a day, according to a study from Johns Hopkins.

In addition to surgical never events, there are also a number of preventable medical errors that occur routinely, including level three and four bed sores and mistakes that lead to collapsed lungs. If you count such events that occur in hospitals and the operating room, around 200 a day happen to people on Medicare alone. Even worse, it is not uncommon for hospitals to charge patients to repair the damage they have caused.

This behavior has led insurance companies and employers to create a set of purchasing principles. These guidelines include refusing to pay for medical care related to “never events” as well as demanding an apology for the patient who was harmed. While many hospitals agreed to these protocols, hundreds of others have refused. Patient advocates are also in an ongoing battle with hospitals to make data about errors made available to the public.

People who seek medical attention should not have to worry that inattentive or negligent health care professionals will cause them harm. Someone who has been injured by a doctor may have legal recourse, and a lawyer could explain their rights and let them know what their options are.

Source: Forbes, “Bone-Chilling Mistakes Hospitals Make And Why They Don’t Want You To Know“, Leah Binder, July 15, 2013

Tags |

Report on emergency gallbladder surgery

10
July
2013

A recently released study of almost 600 gallbladder surgeries has shown several findings related to emergency gallbladder surgeries in New York and across the nation. Data showed that 22 patients suffered from almost three-dozen complications. An emergency gallbladder surgery is riskier than a planned surgery, and 18 of those complications were after emergency surgery. More than 90 percent of the surgeries at night were unplanned, and older males also ran a higher risk of problems associated with surgery.

The lead researcher presented the data at the yearly meeting of the Society for Surgery of the Alimentary Tract in Florida. Although the study seemed to indicate pattern of surgical errors related to emergency gallbladder surgeries, the study was not large enough to generalize the findings. However, even though the findings in the study are preliminary, the results showed that additional research is needed.

Some patients could be a higher risk of complications and addressing those issues before surgery could help reduce problems during surgery. Sufferers from gallbladder problems should seek medical help because a delay in treatment could mean complications when surgery is needed. Gallstones that block drainage from the gallbladder and liver cause many gallbladder issues. Symptoms often manifest as pain in the upper-right abdomen, an upset stomach and vomiting. Sufferers are not helped by taking medication or by moving around. The person usually experiences these symptoms after meals, and they can last for one to four hours.

When medical personnel make mistakes during surgery, the results can lead to permanent injury or even death. A medical malpractice lawyer might be able to help clients determine who should be held responsible after a botched surgery. The lawyer might file a lawsuit on the behalf of the injured party to seek fair and just compensation.

Source: US News & World Report, “Complications More Likely With Emergency Gallbladder Surgery: Study“, July 03, 2013

Tags , , |

New device reduces risk of birth injury during C-sections

08
July
2013

New York parents who are awaiting the arrival of a child may be interested to hear that a new device is being used by some doctors to reduce delivery complications during C-sections. The device, called C SAFE, uses a dull piece of plastic to make the initial incision. The device also has a blade that faces away from the baby, which reduces the risk of injury to the child.

In traditional C-sections, a scalpel is used to remove the baby. In rare cases, however, the doctor may accidentally cut too deep and nick the baby. The injuries, called fetal lacerations, can be as superficial as a nick on the baby’s face that heals with no scaring. In other cases, however, a fetal laceration could result in an accidental amputation of the baby’s fingers.

According to the report, approximately 33 percent of all births are C-sections. In three percent of the C-sections that are performed, fetal lacerations occur. The use of the new device should reduce the number of birth injuries.

When the delivery process causes complications that injure an otherwise healthy baby, families can be devastated. In many cases, the physician may claim that there was nothing that they could have done to prevent the injury. In the case of C-sections, however, a doctor who injures an infant due to cutting too deep with a scalpel could have turned to a safer device, thereby preventing the injury.

An experienced and devoted medical malpractice attorney may be able to help clients by examining the evidence against the hospital. If medical malpractice has occurred, the attorney may be able to help the parents receive compensation for additional medical bills and compensation. If the birth injury is severe enough to impact the child’s life, parents may also be awarded compensation to help cover the child’s future lost earnings.

Source: Philadelphia CBS Local, “Health: New Way To Reduce Risk Of Injuries At Birth“, Stephanie Stahl, June 26, 2013

Tags , , |

Victims of medical malpractice not protected in New York

27
June
2013

New York hospitals have ranked 32nd on patient safety, with many of the state’s hospitals falling below the national average for the safety of its patients. According to the report, a number of out-of-date laws make the problems worse as individuals who are injured or die due to medical errors prohibit many of the patients or their families from ever stepping into court.

The report cites the example of one New York mother, who entered a hospital in 2010 with chest pains. A subsequent x-ray indicated that the woman had a nodule on her lung, but no staff member ever indicated that anything was wrong. She was sent home and advised to take Motrin. Two years later, the woman discovered she had cancer. However, she could not take the hospital to court due to New York’s statute of limitations, which begins when the medical error is made and not when the patient learns about the mistake, even if the mistake is admitted.

Unfortunately, the woman died in March. She is survived by her daughter, who is mentally disabled. It is estimated that a court award from a malpractice lawsuit would have ensured that her daughter had the care that she would need for the rest of her life.

Errors by hospital staff are common, with one in four patients suffering from medical mistakes. Due to New York’s statute of limitations, there is a narrow window in which patients who believe that hospital negligence has caused them unnecessary harm can file a medical malpractice lawsuit. An experienced New York attorney may be able to help their clients seek compensation for their injuries to help pay for expensive medical bills, lost wages, lost future earnings and pain and suffering.

Source: AMNewYork, “Cohen: For sake of patients, change NY’s malpractice law“, Bob Cohen, June 18, 2013

Tags , , , , , |

Surgeon mistakenly takes out wrong kidney

18
June
2013

A surgeon at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City recently removed the incorrect kidney from a 76-year-old patient. While some may suggest that these sorts of surgical errors are rare, experts estimate that wrong-site surgeries may occur in the U.S. as often as 40 times each week.

Details are still emerging in the Mt. Sinai case, but it appears as if the patient’s condition may have contributed to the surgeon’s confusion. He suffers from kidney disease and both kidneys were, in fact, affected. The surgeon was supposed to remove the kidney in which the disease had progressed the most, but he instead removed the healthier organ. Immediately after he realized his mistake and removed the correct one.

The incident is currently under investigation and the surgeon in question has been placed on administrative leave. The patient did survive and has said that he forgives his doctor, despite his current reliance on kidney dialysis. According to the patient, this same doctor had successfully treated him for bladder cancer in the past.

Of course, not all those who suffer injury due to a surgical error are lucky enough to survive. Perhaps the worst aspect of these sorts of cases is that the errors are easily preventable: in most instances, simply consulting a checklist or marking the correct surgical site prior to the procedure are all that is needed ensure that the procedure goes as planned. Too often, surgical staff underestimate the amount of effort needed to prevent accidents in even the simplest of procedures.

Source: The Clinical Advisor, “Mt. Sinai surgeon removes wrong kidney,” Ann Latner, June 17, 2013

Tags |

Worker-focused solutions for hospitalized-patient safety hazards

14
June
2013

When patients enter a hospital for treatment and care, they may or may not expect that they will ultimately return home healthy and healed. A variety of factors contribute to a patient’s overall chance for both recovery and survival.

However, regardless of what conditions patients suffer from and what their prognosis is, most patients certainly do not expect to suffer death in American hospitals as a result of negligence, errors or general medical malpractice. Even though many Americans understand that fatal medical errors occur in hospitals, patients generally do not expect that they will become victims of these incidents.

Too often, preventable fatal medical errors claim the lives of hospitalized patients. Though hospital administrators, healthcare providers and support staff across the nation are working hard to reduce this tragic error rate, preventable fatalities continue to occur. Many experts are beginning to seriously question why current efforts aimed at preventing error-related fatalities in hospitals are not yet succeeding in meaningful ways.

Recent research may hold the key to answering this question. Evidence gathered by experts at Loma Linda University Medical Center and Gallup indicates that employee engagement strongly impacts both worker safety and patient safety in hospital settings. According to the research, there are 12 primary workplace factors that directly link employee engagement to increased patient safety. Essentially, by achieving certain levels of employee engagement, healthcare facilities are both more likely to reduce workplace accident rates and to enhance patient safety overall.

In order to keep hospitalized patients safe, hospitals must take care to engage their employees in a variety of ways. Safe, engaged employees lead to a more focused culture of patient safety and reduced error rates. The issue of employee engagement within the healthcare profession is a complex one. But recent research indicates that unlocking it will help to enable patients remain safer when hospitalized.

Source: Gallup Business Journal, “The Best Ways to Keep Hospital Patients Safe,” Dan Witters, Jim Harter, Sangeeta Agrawal, and Kirti Kanitkar, June 13, 2013

Tags , |

The importance of physician apologies after medical errors

07
June
2013

Apologies should not be complicated. If you wrong someone, you should apologize sincerely and accept any reasonable consequences that may accompany their acceptance or rejection of your apology. For better and for worse, apologies granted to patients by physicians who have made mistakes are not often so straightforward.

Many physicians fail to admit their mistakes and apologize due to fear that the wronged patient will sue them for medical malpractice. Interestingly, studies have proven time and again that physicians are more likely to be sued if an error is discovered and patients have not been granted the courtesy of a heartfelt apology. However, fear of potential litigation still too often overrides the common-sense approach of apologizing to patients whom physicians have harmed.

Some experts argue that teaching physicians how to disclose errors, admit responsibility for them and apologize sincerely would greatly help to facilitate a culture of accountability and patient safety within the healthcare industry. If a patient-physician relationship is primarily based on trust, then ownership for mistakes will help to cultivate that trust. In addition, studies have proven time and again that when physicians openly admit their mistakes and learn from them, everyone benefits.

If your physician apologizes to you, you are neither obligated to pursue a malpractice claim or refrain from pursuing one. Ultimately, that decision must be made with your unique situation and best interests in mind. But whether or not an apology emboldens you to hold your physician accountable for negligence, you certainly deserve an apology if you have been harmed as a result of his or her actions. The medical community as a whole would do well to keep this fact in mind.

Source: Washington Post, “Medical errors are hard for doctors to admit, but it’s wise to apologize to patients,” Manoj Jain, May 27, 2013

Tags , |

Feds contemplate patient-safety framework for EHR systems

31
May
2013

The practice of medicine is becoming increasingly virtual. Robots help to perform a number of surgeries, doctors frequently consult portable electronic devices for information when creating treatment plans and an increasing amount of patient data is being housed electronically. Unfortunately, the use of many of these technologies accompany potential patient safety risks associated with software glitches, input errors and other challenges that can lead to claims of medical malpractice.

As a result, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the federal department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is in the process of creating a framework for electronic health records (EHRs) that is centered on patient safety. Until now, much technology related to EHRs has gone unregulated and as a result, mistakes are being made that ultimately lead to patient harm.

More than 18 months ago, a report compiled by the Institute of Medicine indicated that current EHR systems pose several risks classified as unacceptable to patients. The current HHS efforts reflect that the federal government is taking these risks seriously and expects industry personnel to respond appropriately once the new regulations have been finalized. A date for finalization has yet to be set.

EHR systems can help healthcare professionals avoid patient safety mistakes linked to illegible handwriting, inadequate communication and failure to streamline certain processes. However, without adequate regulation EHR systems are at present often doing patients more harm than good. As the new regulations are refined and become finalized, patients will almost certainly benefit directly from this increased attention and oversight.

Source: ModernHealthcare.com, “Feds move nearer to patient-safety framework for health IT,” Joseph Conn, May 30, 2013

Tags |

Examining operating room distractions leading to surgical errors

24
May
2013

Going in for surgery is quite different than going in for other medical procedures for a number of reasons. Perhaps the most notable difference is that during many surgeries, the patient is unconscious and cannot participate in or observe his own medical care.

Most surgical teams continue to act professionally once the patient has gone under. But in other cases, this lack of patient oversight encourages some doctors and nurses to engage in casual conversation and other distracted behaviors that can lead to surgical errors.

Concentration is already difficult enough during surgery because equipment in the room can be noisy. But many surgeons choose to operate while listening to music, and may even get drawn into unrelated conversations with surgical assistants and others in the room. There have even been reports of cellphones ringing and being answered in some operating rooms.

Researchers in one study recently tested 15 surgeons to see how distractions affected their ability to understand and repeat words. They were tested under a variety of noise levels and conditions. Researchers found that when surgeons were engaged in a surgical task, music was a significant barrier to the comprehension of speech. And when the words being spoken were unpredictable, background noise also affected speech comprehension.

Other studies have also shown that surgeons are more prone to make mistakes in a distracting environment. So the question is: why do hospitals allow operating rooms to have unnecessary distractions in them? Are music, casual conversation,  cellphone access and other creature comforts really more important than patient safety?

Source: NewsNet5.com, “From ringing phones to sleep deprivation: Distractions increase surgeons’ potential for mistakes,” Lee Bowman, May 15, 2013

Tags |

Survey says expecting mothers don’t have enough say in childbirth

13
May
2013

Last week, we wrote about the importance of quality perinatal care. Even if expecting mothers do everything they can to ensure that the baby is born healthy, medical negligence during delivery can lead to debilitating birth injuries. Bad medical advice or unnecessary medical procedures can also increase the risk of birth injuries or pregnancy complications.

The results of a recent survey show that many pregnant women undergo invasive interventions and medical procedures without full knowledge of the risks and alternatives. In certain areas, perinatal care recommended by the doctors or staff does not follow established best-practice guidelines. The survey was conducted by the non-profit group Childbirth Connection, and included responses from 2,400 women who recently gave birth.

Two of the most pressing issues highlighted in the survey included under what circumstances labor should be induced and under what circumstances the baby should be delivered via C-section. The survey revealed that 41 percent of women had labor induced rather than waiting to go into labor naturally. About 25 percent of these women said they agreed to induction because they felt pressured by their health care provider.

Furthermore, the reasons commonly given by providers for why induction was necessary were not always proper justifications for the procedure. Reasons included that a mother had reached her due date or that the baby might have been getting large.

The subject of C-sections was also a major issue highlighted by the survey. The complication risks are different based on whether a woman has previously given birth via C-section. Many mothers who had given birth this way wanted to deliver vaginally on their second pregnancy but a significant percentage were not allowed to do so.

There are few experiences as rewarding and rare as the birth of one’s children. For this reason, pregnant women should be given a larger decision-making role in their perinatal care, and doctors should respect that role by helping inform their patients of all options and risks. Commenting on the study results, the executive director of Childbirth Connection said: “Our survey suggests that pregnant women need to take a more active role to make sure they get the care that is best for themselves and their babies. They need access to trustworthy information about the benefits and harms of interventions, to educate themselves, and be their own advocate.”

 

Source: Consumer Reports, “Pregnant? Watch out for unnecessary c-sections and other questionable medical procedures,” May 8, 2013

Tags |