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The Most Common Medical Errors

What are the most common medical errors?

medical malpacticeMedical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, after cancer and heart disease. According to a Johns Hopkins study, medical mistakes kill more than 250,000 people every year. These numbers are scary for patients who quite literally place their lives in the hands of medical professionals every day.

Even in the best hospitals in the country, mistakes can happen. But, that doesn’t mean you should avoid getting necessary medical treatment for fear of something going wrong. Instead, equip yourself with knowledge. Be aware of the most common types of preventable medical errors:

1. Misdiagnosis

Error in diagnosis is a common medical error. Incorrect diagnosis can result in unnecessary or harmful treatment. A wrong diagnosis also means that the patient’s true illness won’t be treated right away, if at all, prolonging the patient’s suffering.

2. Delayed Diagnosis

A delayed diagnosis can be as detrimental as a misdiagnosis. A delay in diagnosis can prevent the patient from getting necessary treatment in a timely manner.

3. Medication Error

One of the most common mistakes that occurs in the course of medical treatment is an error in medication. Prescribing the wrong dose, or failing to account for drug interactions can have detrimental effects for the patient. Prescribers and caregivers must carefully consider a patient’s medical history to watch for allergies and potentially harmful drug combinations before administering medicine. If they fail to do so, or if information is left off of a patient’s chart, the consequences can be very serious.

4. Infection

Infection is a risk of almost any hospital stay or medical procedure. Most hospital infections are not serious and can be treated. However, some infections can become much more serious and even deadly.

5. Bad medical devices

Oftentimes, a medical mistake isn’t a mistake at all, but rather the result of an unsafe medical device. Even if your doctor does everything right, she can’t protect you from a malfunctioning or defective tool.  In these cases, the doctor or caregiver is not to blame; the manufacturer of the defective device bears responsibility. Devices such as IVC blood clot filters, hernia mesh, Stryker hip implants, Bair Hugger surgical warming blankets, and countless other medical tools and products have been known to fail and cause serious harm.

While these are some of the most common mistakes, any number of errors in medical care can have serious consequences for patients.

Protect yourself and your loved ones from medical mistakes

The potential for medical error shouldn’t stop you or your family from getting the care you need. The good news is that most medical mistakes are preventable.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If possible, bring someone else with you, a friend or family member, to help you. Write everything down – your medications, allergies, previous doctors and health issues, and any questions you may have. When you’re being discharged from the hospital, make sure you ask your doctor to explain your home care and recovery process.

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