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Archive for the ‘Medical Malpractice’ Category

To Be or Not to Be (a Whistle Blower) that Is the Question

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

A follow up blog to a post concerning a nurse who was jailed and fined for reporting a doctor… It looks like justice was served in the end.

An Unfair Complaint

A Texas nurse is waiting to stand trial. For what you might ask… Illegal prescription use? Theft? Wrongful death? How about none of the above? Anne Mitchell is facing trial because she is a whistle blower and the doctor in question protested to the sheriff in the small Texas town that he was being harassed and defamed for no reason.

Mitchell wrote an anonymous letter complaining about Dr. Arafiles practices and “mishaps” – including a failed skin graft performed without surgical privileges, suturing a rubber tip to a patient’s crushed finger for protection and a large affinity to herbal supplements which he sold as a side business – to the medical board.

This “anonymous” letter was brought to the attention of Dr. Arafiles who immediately filed a complaint to his friend the sheriff who then issued a search warrant to seize the nurse’s computer and found the letter.

Mitchell had worked for the hospital system for over 20 years. She is a much respected member of the nursing community. She loved her job and only wanted the best for patients. She was doing what every nurse should do – report wrongdoing and highly questionable (on numerous occasions) practices performed by Dr. Arafiles.

Mitchell was charged of misuse of official information, a third-degree felony punishable by prison time and was also fired from her job at the hospital.

A Just Outcome

A jury found Mitchell not guilty. Karma also reared her ugly head, with Dr. Arafiles, the sheriff, and a hospital administrator faced criminal charges in connection with the prosecution and with the firing of Mitchell. The defendants agreed to pay Mitchell and another nurse who was fired as well $375,000 a piece for the wrongful firing.

The state medical board also charged Dr. Arafiles with poor medical judgment, nontherapeutic prescribing, failure to maintain adequate records, overbilling, witness intimidation, and other violations.

Following Dr. Arafiles’ hearing, the board gave the doctor the choice of 2 remedial education programs for physicians along with 8 hours of continuing medication education in medical record-keeping and another 8 hours in evaluating and treating thyroid disease. He has also been put on probation for 4 years and fined $5,000.

Final Lesson

Putting whistle blowers in prison would seem to be a deterrent to those in the future that witness wrongdoing. While there are certainly those that “blow their whistle” in hopes to receiving a grand payday, there are also concerned individuals that do the right thing and report the wrongdoings and injustices they witness.

We have laws in place to protect whistle blowers from retaliation. These laws are necessary to protect individuals who do the right thing and are not afraid of being call “tattletales.”

The whole point of protecting whistle blowers is to give people an incentive to report. Without an incentive we can expect fraud, theft etc. to only increase in the healthcare system.

Thanks for reading!

Your healthcare resource – Rebecca Busch

Avoiding Fraud, Medical, and Billing Errors in the Healthcare Arena

Monday, March 21st, 2011

A HealthGrades report indicates that there have been between 400,000-1.2 million error-induced deaths during 1996–2006 in the United States. On top of that, $60 to $80 billion is lost each year in the healthcare system due to fraud, waste, and abuse. How can you protect yourself from these alarming numbers?

As a patient you have many resources at your fingertips. Before you even visit a healthcare facility or provider, perform a due diligence check on both the facility and the provider.

How to Research a Doctor

First, confirm your physician’s NPI number – all physicians are required to have a NPI number for Medicare billing. Even if a physician is not billing Medicare, they need to have a NPI number to refer patients to other physicians.

Here is a free site to find your physician’s and facilities’ (where you will be receiving the treatment) NPI number.

Second, authenticate your physician’s and facilities’ information with the NPI registry. Here you will be able to confirm the provider’s legal business name and/or location, contact information, and NPI number. The NPI Registry is a free service located here.

Third, research the background history of your provider to see whether he/she has been disciplined, fined, or has had a suspended license. The State of Illinois License Lookup allows you to confirm all licenses distributed by the State of Illinois including MD, RN, PharmD, DO, etc.

Finally, a simple Internet search on the provider/facility may garner surprising results. Oftentimes, pending lawsuits and court filings appear at the top of Internet searches if the provider/facility is involved.

If you suspect anything, remember to request a copy of your medical records and billing statements. By performing your own mini-investigation you will be able to determine if your provider is supplementing or omitting information from your medical records or billing statements.

Useful sites:

NPI Registry

NPI Number Lookup

State of Illinois License Lookup

Attention Patients: Be Aware of Medical Errors this Holiday Season

Friday, December 24th, 2010

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.

The Price of Medical Errors

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

A recent report highlighted that more than 13 % of Medicare patients in the U.S. experience an adverse event each month in American hospitals – resulting in 15,000 deaths.

AOL Health’s recent article states, “The news is startling, particularly since the report points out that 44 % of adverse incidents occurring in hospitals are avoidable. And all-together, these adverse events are costing Medicare more than $300 million a month.”

Now what are some types of medical errors that have occurred?
1. A doctor operated on and amputated the wrong leg of a veteran.

2. An elderly woman received the wrong blood type during a blood transfusion.

3. A CT scan being performed on a pregnant woman who had a similar name to a patient who was having abdominal pain resulting in harm to the unborn baby.

Link to other, unforgivable medical errors.

Patient Safety Trends & Data

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

In honor of Patient Advocacy Week that took place April 12th – 18th the focus of this commentary will relate to patient safety and self-advocacy.

In a recent RAND report “Is Better Patient Safety Associated with Less Malpractice Activity? Evidence from California” it was found that there is a correlation between the frequency of adverse events and malpractice claims. “On average, a county that shows a decrease of 10 adverse events in a given year would also see a decrease of 3.7 malpractice claims.” What this is telling us is that there is a link between patient safety and malpractice claims. While that might not necessarily be news to some, it does put some light on the “frivolous” lawsuits. If hospitals were to concentrate on patient safety and patient education the malpractice lawsuits will (according to this report) most likely decrease.

Another article by the Wall Street Journal titled “New Focus on Averting Errors: Hospital Culture” highlights the fact that errors made by healthcare professionals cause 44,000 to 98,000 deaths per year. To combat this number hospitals are taking a surprising approach: “Not only are they trying to improve safety and reduce malpractice claims, they’re also coming up with procedures for handling – and even consoling – staffers who make inadvertent mistakes.” Hospitals are taking a proactive approach to patient safety and staffer guidance instead of waiting for a bad event to occur and then reacting.

A Personal Health Record Can Help with Safety

And now just a little information regarding Personal Health Records (PHRs) and their useful for patient safety. Having a PHR can certainly save you time and help with all the cumbersome paperwork, but having one can also save your life. Patient data is lost/mixed up etc. daily and having your own record of your health will help keep you safe. The state of California has the largest PHR adoption rate. Here is a look at the numbers:
1. 7% of adults had used a Personal Health Record (PHR)
2. California leads the nation in PHR use, at 15%
3. 58% of PHR users with two or more chronic conditions say they know more about their health care as a result, compared to 44% of those with only one or no chronic conditions
4. 48% of caregivers are interested in using a PHR for the person they care for
5. 75% worry about the privacy of PHR information
6. 40% of those who do not have a PHR express interest in using one

Doctors try to have non-pregnant woman give birth

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Two North Carolina doctors are in hot water after inducing labor and performing a C-section on a woman who wasn’t pregnant.

The doctors and several other interns tried to induce labor because the woman described only as “Patient A” came to the hospital claiming to be pregnant. Only after performing a Cesarean section did the doctors realize that the uterus was empty and the woman was in fact not pregnant.

The doctors later determined that the woman was suffering from pseudocyesis – also known as false pregnancy.

The two doctors in question were issued letters of concern but other doctors commenting on this story thought the punishment should be a little harsher. According to the article, “In this day and age, how can something like this happen? We have sonograms readily available to confirm whether or not someone is pregnant.”

An ultrasound was preformed by a resident (not the doctors in question), however, but it showed no heartbeat and “Patient A” insisted that she needed to be induced for fear of her baby.

The two doctors in question never actually examined the patient before they approved the C-section.

This is where we need to practice intelligent medicine and take the time to examine a patient. Doctors and nurses are extremely busy – especially in a hospital setting, but one simple examination would have shown that the woman was not actually pregnant and a major surgery (C-section) would not have been preformed.

Read full article here.