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Medical errors: A bigger problem than you think

Medical errors: A bigger problem than you think 

Most people in North Adams are aware that medical errors happen. They may hear it on the news, or from friends and family who have experienced, or know someone who has experienced, a mistake while under medical care.  According to a CNN report, it is estimated that more than 251,000 people die from medical errors in the United States each year, based on an analysis of death rate information by doctors at John Hopkins Medical Center. This indicates that while the leading causes of death for Americans are heart disease and cancer, the third largest cause appears to be medical errors.  

Medical errors can range from giving the wrong medication to leaving items in a person’s body during surgery to performing surgery on the wrong patient to removing the wrong body parts. The Huffington Post reports that a study at Massachusetts General Hospital found that out of all the surgeries performed in 2013-2014, errors in drug administration occurred in 45 percent of them. 

Incorrect care plans, omissions of care instructions, and incorrectly executed doctor’s orders were just a few of the errors that occurred in hospitals, according to a group of doctors from John Hopkins who conducted a study of 37 million hospital admissions across the country. There are always risks involved with medical care, but there are ways that patients can reduce those risks. These include the following:

          Take the time to review both hospital admission and physician records for errors.

  •          Ensure that treatment plans are fully understood by bringing another person to the appointment.
  •          Be prepared to ask questions of the physician by researching conditions and treatments in advance.
  •          Any time new medication is prescribed, talk to a pharmacist about possible drug interactions.
  •          Always ask surgeons about potential complications and about their experience performing a procedure before surgery occurs.
  •          Prior to surgery, make sure the anesthesia will be administered by an actual anesthesiologist, not a nurse, and try to meet the anesthesiologist in person. 

Simple things like knowing what medication looks like and recognizing when something different is given can save lives. It may sound ridiculous, but take the time to label the body part to be operated on to avoid mistakes in the operating room. What seems foolish now, may save a lot of pain and suffering in the future.

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