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Attention Patients: Be Aware of Medical Errors this Holiday Season

With the holidays right around the corner, many of us will be rushing around, finishing up holiday shopping, attending parties, eating too much… the list goes on.

However, people still get hurt and sick around the holidays and are in the hospital. Hospital staff is lighter around the holidays, giving providers some much needed family time. On the other hand, less providers and tired staff can lead to medical errors.

A recent article by Dr. Bialek of www.covermd.com looks at the top ten most common medical errors in the United States.

1. Technical medical error
Ex: Provider cutting the wrong artery in a heart surgery, leading to complications or death.

2. Failure to use indicated tests
Ex: Patient having chest pains, but doctor failing to perform an EKG and patient has a heart attack.

3. Avoidable delay in treatment
Ex: Patient complains of stomach pains, isn’t seen quickly by ER attendees because of more urgent manners, patient’s appendix erupts causing severe internal bleeding.

4. Failure to take precautions
Ex: Patient is weak and has a history of falling. Nurse takes patient from the bed to the bathroom, unaware of patient’s weakness. Patient falls and fractures hip.

5. Failure to act on test results
Ex: Patient feels dizzy and sick. Doctor orders blood test, believes it’s an infection and sends the patient off with antibiotics. Test results come back, but doctor fails to look at them thinking she just has an infection. Patient ends up in a diabetic comma.

6. Inadequate monitoring after a procedure
Patient has a routine surgery. After surgery, patient is on narcotics. Nurses fail to monitor the patient, although patient’s parents are in the room. They do not realize that the patient has stopped breathing.
Another important list is errors with serious consequences. These occur mostly in intensive care units, operating rooms, and emergency departments.

7. Inadequate patient preparation before a procedure
Patient goes in for surgery. The provider fails to check with the patient to see what medications the patient is taking before surgery is performed. The patient is currently taking a blood thinner. During surgery and bleed occurs and the patient dies.

8. Inadequate follow-up after treatment
Patient has surgery. After surgery the doctor tells the patient to call for any changes in temperature, feeling, etc. Patient feels drowsy and nauseous from anesthesia and blames it on that. When the patient calls the doctor, the doctor tells the patient to wait 24 hours. Patient comes down with a deadly infection.

9. Avoidable delay in diagnosis
Patient comes in after blacking out after being assaulted. Provider waits 12 hours for a CT scan. Patient’s brain is bleeding and never wakes up.

10. Improper medication dose and/or method of use
Ex: A drug mix up causes a patient to take 10 times the normal dose. Patient dies a result.

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