Albany, New York Personal Injury Blog

Communication Breakdowns Causing Medical Errors


Patients should be able to receive appropriate medical treatment without concerning themselves with anything other than their recovery. According to a recent survey, however, hospital patients could have more to worry about than they realize.

The survey, conducted by medical professional associations and a global training and consulting firm, focused on operating-room and critical-care nurses. The survey found that there is often a breakdown in communication among medical teams, resulting in hospital errors.

More than half of the nurses surveyed-58 percent-reported being in situations where they felt it was not safe to speak up or where they did speak up but could not get anyone to listen to their complaints. According to the report, there are three main concerns with this communication breakdown: dangerous shortcuts, incompetence and disrespect.

A majority of the more than 4,000 nurses surveyed complained of working with individuals who took dangerous shortcuts such as failing to wash their hands long enough. Nearly a third of the nurses said the shortcuts led to near misses, and more than a quarter reported that harm to patients occurred as a result.

Nineteen percent of the nurses interviewed said that they had worked with someone whose incompetence or lack of necessary skill harmed a patient. Twenty percent of the respondents reported that they are treated disrespectfully and are considering leaving the profession as a result.

While many nurses turn to their managers for assistance with these issues, less than half of the 832 nurse managers interviewed had brought the complaints to the attention of the individuals responsible. While 41 percent reported speaking to those accused of taking dangerous shortcuts, only 38 percent of the managers had brought up the issue of disrespect. Incompetence, arguably the most serious of the issues, was discussed by a mere 28 percent of the managers with the individuals alleged to be incompetent.

One out of every three hospital patients suffers a medical error or accident. One way this number could be reduced is by improving medical team communication in hospitals. It is imperative that teams create an environment in which members feel comfortable discussing whatever issues arise in order to ensure patient safety.

Source: Report: Communication Breakdown Leads to Hospital Errors

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Self-Reporting of Medical Errors Leads to False Belief in Improvement


A recent study published by Health Affairs suggests that rather than improving patient safety, health care facilities are underreporting medical errors, skewing statistics that seem to indicate hospitals are becoming a safer place for patients. By misattributing adverse events to a patient’s underlying condition, rather than to a mistake by health care professionals, the study reported that almost 90 percent of what should be noted as adverse events go unreported.

Researchers compared patient records from three major hospitals with “well-established operational patient safety programs.” Despite those target hospitals having an increased focus on patient safety, the study shows that there is still much to be done.

Using a new method for error detection, named the Global Trigger Tool, researchers concluded that adverse events – “unintended physical injury resulting from, or contributed to, by medical care,” as defined by the study – occurred in 1 in 3 patients.

Cross-referencing study results with other reporting tools, researchers found between four and 35 errors in the 795 patient records sample, whereas the Global Trigger Tool alerted researchers to 345 errors. Evaluating the same records with Tool reveals that adverse events occur 10 times more than previously thought.

The problem with such a vast difference in outcomes of the different error-tracking methods is that the reporting systems currently in use create a false sense of improved patient safety at the target hospitals. While hospitals may be championing the progress made in patient safety and the reduction of medical errors related to various safety initiatives, the study reveals that hospitals still remain a dangerous place for every third person who walks through patient admissions.

“Our study suggests that despite sizable investments and aggressive promotional efforts by local hospitals, these reporting systems fail to detect most adverse events,” researchers reported.

There was no indication that the number of reported adverse events was intentionally misreported, but rather that current criteria for identifying adverse events are ineffective to accurately track actual medical mistakes.

Sources: Hospital Errors May Occur In A Third Of AdmissionsMedical errors in hospitals go undetected, study suggests

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Preventing Medical Errors: How You Can Protect Yourself


According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, medical errors are one of the leading causes of death and injury in America. The Institute of Medicine estimates that about 44,000 to 98,000 people die annually in U.S. hospitals because of medical errors, many of which are preventable.

Medical errors are adverse events that cause unintended negative outcomes for patients, such as when the wrong treatment is administered. Medical errors can occur at many treatment points, including:

  • Diagnosis
  • Lab work
  • Surgery
  • Medication
  • Inpatient and Outpatient care

Medical errors range in severity, from drawing too little blood to performing surgery on the wrong body part. Ideally, patients shouldn’t have to worry about medical errors when entrusting their care to medical professionals. With the high rate of errors and potential for serious consequences, however, patients should take steps to minimize their risk.

Patients can help prevent medical errors from happening to them by following these tips from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality:

  • Ask factual questions about your medicine – What is it for? What does it do? How long and when are you supposed to take it? What are its possible side effects and when do they become a concern? Should any activities be restricted while on the medicine?
  • Choose doctors, clinics and hospitals with experience in the medical care you need.
  • Get specific, written instructions about any at-home treatment plans.
  • If you are having surgery, mark the body part that should be operated on yourself.
  • Do not assume every medical-care provider is apprised of your situation and do not be afraid to ask questions.
  • Do not think that no news is good news – ask about your laboratory and test results as well as what they mean.
  • Learn about your treatment or condition from reliable resources.

Source: 20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors

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Construction Accident Kills One, Injures Three


Construction workers know the dangers they face on the job each day. Companies strive to complete a project as soon and as inexpensively as possible in order to move along to the next job site. With so many different types of work being performed, it is not uncommon for serious injuries or death to result. A recent accident in New York is just one example of the challenges to those on the job.

Four construction workers were building a cinderblock wall at a jobsite in Queens when scaffolding fell. The materials landed on the wall, causing it to collapse on the workers. One worker was killed, and the other three suffered serious injuries.

Falling objects are one common type of accident that happens on job sites, but it is not the only way workers are injured. Electrocution and burns are possible, as well as injuries sustained from malfunctioning equipment.

Much of the work that occurs on sites is done above ground, on ladders or scaffolding. If workers fall on a construction site, it can lead to broken bones, paralysis or even death.

In New York, there are protections in place for construction workers. Property owners and construction companies are under an obligation to ensure that proper safety precautions are in place. If they do not meet these obligations, they may be held responsible for any injuries that arise.

For construction workers, any missed time due to injury can have a devastating impact on their livelihoods. However, because many of these injuries are quite serious, workers will need time to recover. Obtaining compensation for medical bills and time away from work can be a challenge in these cases.

Many of these injuries will be covered by the workers’ compensation system, which proscribes a specific amount of recovery for injured workers. Any injuries caused by coworkers or your employer generally will fall into the workers’ compensation category.

An experienced construction accidents attorney will need to examine exactly how the injury occurred to determine if additional compensation may be available. Accidents that result due to actions of independent contractors or the actions of the property owner may allow the injured worker to recover damages in a personal injury lawsuit.

Source: 1 killed, 3 injured in NYC construction accident

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Will You Soon Be Paying a “Baby Tax” To Subsidize Doctors’ Malpractice?


New York’s Medicaid Redesign Team is considering the controversial Proposal 131. Besides putting strict caps on non-economic compensation for medical malpractice suits, the proposal would establish a birth injury fund. This fund would be financed by a surcharge paid by liability insurance companies with costs likely passed onto small businesses and any insurance consumer.

Although little has been revealed about the details of the birth injury fund there is concern because a good portion of the Medicaid Redesign Team is made up of lobbyists from hospitals and industry. Piecing together the details that are available and ideas that have been circulating there is significant concern about several aspects of the potential birth injury fund.

One possibility is a system where families would be continually fighting for funds they need to care for their newborn with not only their health insurance, but also Medicaid and then the new birth injury fund. The ongoing efforts to fight for compensation would be extremely taxing on families of injured newborns who already face significant challenges.

Another concern is the solvency of such a birth injury fund. Even if the fund is appropriately funded and established with the best of intentions, nothing guarantees that it will remain that way. The fund could be drained because of budgetary issues and become insolvent. The Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Program of Virginia has faced tremendous fiscal problems for a number of years.

By its creation, the birth injury fund singles out catastrophically-injured newborns. It potentially denies those who represent the injured newborns’ interests from presenting their case to an impartial judge or jury with potentially no process for appeal. Newborns and their families should have the same opportunities for legal recourse as any other victims of medical malpractice.

Finally, it is simply unfair to shift the financial responsibility from negligent doctors and hospitals to state government and insurance consumers, essentially a “Baby Tax”. The focus instead should be on improving hospital and patient safety to prevent such malpractice from happening in the first place.

Source: Center for Justice and Democracy, “Governor’s Medicaid Team Considering New ‘Baby Tax’ to Subsidize Malpractice at Unsafe Hospitals”

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Surgical Checklists Likely Reduce Medical Errors and Hospital Deaths


Every day people use checklists to keep track of things and make sure steps are not missed. It may come as a surprise to many that when doctors use such a simple tool they not only significantly decrease medical errors, but likely save lives.

Medical errors continue to be a major problem in hospitals nationwide. Studies have shown that roughly 100,000 patients die each year as the result of preventable medical errors in hospitals. Many of these errors are related to surgery, which makes surgical checklists particularly important.

Although they certainly cannot prevent all instances of medical malpractice, evidence suggests that surgical checklists have the ability to dramatically reduce errors. In a recent study, researchers looked at the primary reason for medical errors in almost 300 surgery cases.

They compared these reasons to items on SURPASS, a comprehensive surgical checklist currently being used by hospitals in the Netherlands. Almost 30 percent of the errors corresponded to items on the checklist. Four of the 10 deaths reviewed had a contributing factor that was identified on the checklist.

Items on such checklists include: making sure proper equipment is available, assuring necessary communication has occurred between medical staff, identifying where on the patient’s body the surgery is going to take place, and checking that the operating schedule is correct.

One would think that hospitals would be eager to adopt checklists that may increase patient safety. Johns Hopkins, for example, has developed a relatively simple checklist which has been shown to almost completely eliminate bloodstream infections in intensive care units.

So far, however, only about 25 percent of U.S. hospitals are using one of the three checklists that have proven to be effective.

Hopefully, as research continues to prove the value of surgical checklists, more and more hospitals will begin adopting them.

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Welcome to Our Blog


At the Albany-based law firm of Law offices of Sanford Rosenblum, my team of experienced attorneys is exclusively focused on getting the best possible results for people who have been catastrophically injured and those who have lost loved ones due to the careless and reckless behavior of others.

These cases require a sophisticated understanding of complex issues, which is why I make a point of staying on top of the latest developments in a number of different areas, from legislative action to medical diagnosis and treatment.

We look forward to using my blog to share some of my thoughts on current events. We hope you will find the information that I present here helpful and informative.

Of course, general information can only get you so far. Because my firm deliberately limits my caseload, I are able to devote the attention needed to understand the specific circumstances involved in every case I accept.

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