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North Adams Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Electronic health records linked to medical errors

Electronics are intended to make life easier, but the transition to electronic health records has not been smooth for many health care facilities in Massachusetts and around the United States. Indeed, recent reports indicate that in some cases, the use of electronic records has increased the incidence of doctor errors.

A federal program launched in 2009 incentivized the transition to electronic health records with the aim to reduce errors according to Modern Healthcare. Certainly, automated systems come with plenty of benefits, from making it easy for physicians to access patients records to eliminating the problem of hard-to-read handwriting. However, human error tends to have more severe consequences in the emergency room setting given the fast pace and high stakes, and the potential for error only increases if there are design flaws in the electronic system.

Failure to Diagnose

Chest pain is perhaps the most recognizable symptom of a heart attack, but sometimes it is minimal or not present at all. A patient suffering from one of these silent attacks may disregard other symptoms or not notice them. All heart attacks, diagnosed or undiagnosed, pose a serious threat, so it is crucial that Massachusetts physicians be aware of the risk of silent heart attacks.

Silent heart attacks are not uncommon in the United States, and a report by CBS News based on a recent study suggests that pain tolerance may be a relevant factor in diagnosis of these attacks. Participants in this study underwent several tests, including a test for sensitivity to pain that involves plunging one’s hand into cold water for as long as is tolerable (with a maximum time limit of two minutes). Participants also received electrocardiograms to identify previous heart attacks, either diagnosed or undiagnosed.

Preventing brain injuries in children

Brain injuries among children can have devastating lifelong consequences, especially if they go undetected and untreated. Fortunately, there are steps Massachusetts parents can take to minimize the likelihood of childhood brain injuries.

The Brain Injury Association of America reports that traumatic brain injury (TBI) is particularly prevalent among children ages zero to four and teenagers over the age of 15. In these age groups, TBIs are the primary causes of death and disability. Brain injuries among children and adolescents are generally more severe than similar injuries among adults simply because young brains are still developing. Recent research has indicated the inaccuracy of the old notion that children can recover from TBIs more easily than can adults; instead, the effects of TBIs in children are often delayed and may only appear as the child ages.

What constitutes informed consent?

As a patient, you have a legal right to decide what is done with your body, as explained by Temple Health. This means that before your Massachusetts physician implements a treatment plan, he or she must obtain informed consent.

In general, before you provide consent for any procedure, your physician should present certain information, such as the diagnosis and the nature of the recommended treatment. You also need to know the following:

  • The benefits and risks of the proposed treatment
  • The consequences of not pursuing treatment
  • The possible alternative methods of treatment
  • The pros and cons of these alternatives

Risk factors for uterine rupture

A straightforward pregnancy is every Massachusetts mother’s hope, but complications such as uterine ruptures can arise quickly, be difficult to diagnose and have catastrophic consequences. Although uterine ruptures are rare, physicians must respond rapidly when one does occur to minimize the possibility of severe injury or death for both mother and child.

A uterine rupture occurs when pressure during labor tears the uterus, according to Healthline. The biggest resulting threat to the mother is the potential for hemorrhage, although in a hospital setting, fatal blood loss is unlikely. The risk to the baby is much greater because a rupture may lead to oxygen deprivation. Uterine rupture is fatal to the child in approximately six percent of cases, and the baby should be delivered within 40 minutes of the rupture.

What malpractice claim guidelines exist for pregnancy injuries?

If you are an expecting mother in Massachusetts, you know that when a preventable injury occurs as a result of a medical error, it has consequences not only for your well-being, but also for the health and safety of your child. After such an incident, you may wish to seek recompense; however, it is important to pursue action within the guidelines of the state’s legal code.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, you must file a medical malpractice claim within three years of the injury. In more complicated cases, such as an injury of which you were not—and could not reasonably expect to be—aware until after the fact, you have up to seven years to file a claim. In cases involving a foreign object left in the body, the timeline is indefinite. In such a scenario, you may pursue legal action more than seven years after the time of initial injury.

Is your diagnosis raising red flags?

You trust your Massachusetts doctor to provide the right diagnosis and the right treatment. Unfortunately, errors in diagnosis are common, and a missed diagnosis may mean that you do not get the treatment you need. Receiving unnecessary treatments after an incorrect diagnosis can be harmful, too. Here are a few steps to take if you have any doubts about the accuracy of your diagnosis.

Next Avenue reports that an estimated one in 20 people in the United States are misdiagnosed annually. This number includes delayed, incorrect and missed diagnoses. Such errors may arise from misinterpreted or inaccurate test results or because a given disease cannot be identified via lab tests. Additionally, your doctor may be facing increasingly crowded schedules, which means he or she sees more patients every day and has less time to spend with you.

Risk factors for preterm birth

The last weeks of pregnancy are essential for infants’ health and development, and premature birth can have serious consequences. Expecting Massachusetts parents should be aware of the risk factors for preterm birth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of infants born preterm—that is, before 37 weeks of gestation—actually increased between 2014 and 2015 following a decline during the previous seven years. The causes of this phenomenon are not yet clear.

Risks of repeated brain trauma

Traumatic brain injuries can have long-term consequences for behavior, cognition and functional abilities. Thus, no TBI should go unexamined. Massachusetts patients who have undergone repeated head injuries should be aware of the potential for neurodegeneration over time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that mild injuries, such as concussions, account for approximately 75 percent of the TBIs that occur annually. TBIs can cause wide-ranging, short- and long-term effects, including shifts in emotion, sensation, language and thinking. Brain trauma also can contribute to neurodegenerative disorders and epilepsy.

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