Articles Posted in Prevention Programs

nursing education reform

A New Generation of Nurses Will Require Clinical Teachings to Lessen Medical Error Rates 

We carry no doubt that America’s nurses have devoted years to their education in the classroom by experienced instructors lecturing on how to identify illnesses, symptoms and diseases. And they are learning about how different treatments and medications can be used in case studies and textbooks authored by advanced clinical researchers. But unfortunately, most of these nurses will never acquire much situational teaching in clinical settings or practice the application of their learnings before starting their career. This is resulting in poor judgement calls on behalf of patients, and ultimately more malpractice lawsuits.

According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN):

As Malpractice Laws Changes, Patient Safety Concerns Grow

The 12th edition of Medical Malpractice: By The Numbers is now open for review and examines the latest statistics, facts, and research concerning unsafe hospitals, preventable patient injuries, negligent clinicians, and medical errors. Authored by the Center for Justice & Democracy at New York Law School (CJ&D) researchers say the 172-page volume includes over 500 linked footnotes and sources and was released at a time when laws are making it harder for patients and their families to place accountability on wrong-doing hospitals and incompetent physicians.

Briefing book statistics are shared for topics such as:

We have all heard of the seemingly magical black box in airplanes. Nearly indestructible, the device tracks what happens inside the airplane in order to help experts determine the causes of airplane accidents so future accidents can be prevented. Now there may be a similar device that can help prevent personal injuries and wrongful deaths due to medical malpractice.

The Brampton Guard reports that a “black box” is tracking errors in a Toronto operating room. The device collected data that shows that surgeons are making the overwhelming majority of their errors during the same two steps of surgery, over and over again. Now researchers can take that information to try to develop ways to reduce those errors in the future, so that fewer patients wind up injured.
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So a doctor does not do what he should, breaches standards of care, and a patient is harmed. This is medical malpractice. Whether it is providing a wrong dose of medication, failing to catch a change in condition, or anything in between, when standards of care are not met and harm results, then a patient (and their family) can hold the negligent party accountable.

One complexity that exists in many medical malpractice cases relates to determining all parties which may have played a role. Medical care today is complex, there are different layers of oversight, specialists, and many different caregivers providing various services. When something goes wrong, many of them may have breached reasonable care standards.

Supervising Doctors Held Liable

Prioritizing patient safety usually requires concentrated effort from entire medical caregiving systems–hospital administrators, doctors, nurses, aides, and all those involved in medical care. Many different individuals interact to provide services to patients, and ensuring that mistakes are avoided means that all those involved commit to doing everything in their power to prevent problems. As it now stands, we have a lot of work to do. Upwards of 200,000 patients die every year because of medical mistakes–many more are injured. This is a problem of large proportions.

But the fact that the problem is large does not mean that all possible solutions are complex. In fact, patient safety advocates repeatedly point out that lowering errors rates and saving lives can actually be accomplished with commitment to very simple changes. For example, even the act of washing hands consistently can prevent the spread of infection that claims many patient lives each year. Checklists can also prevent simple oversights and lapses in judgement which result in errors and take lives.

A recent story from Beckers ASC discusses one way that some facilities are trying to prioritize patient safety. The approach is known as the “Stoplight” method for its categorization of different patient safety concerns. Using the colors red, yellow, and green, the method labels each risky situation based on the ability of a team to address it.

In an ideal world, medical professionals would do everything in their power to eliminate every manner of preventable error, because they would have to pay for the consequences of mistakes. Medical malpractice lawsuits are supposed to work somewhat in that manner–requiring hospitals to pay for the consequences of their inadequate care, spurring them to make changes that eliminate harmful care.

Yet, a troubling new Yahoo Health article is a reminder that in a perverse way, many hospitals actually profit from making medical mistakes. That is because the mistakes cause patients more harm, requiring even more care—and hospitals get paid for that extra care. This cycle of more and more treatment is obviously bad for the patient, bad for insurance companies, and bad for taxpayers footing the bill on much medical care. Hospitals are the only ones to benefit. All of this is one key reason why more are looking at alternative ways to make medical payments–like “managed care” systems.

Profitable Medical Errors

When considering improper conduct by hospitals administrators and staff members, most focus is on medical errors. Medical malpractice rules requires professionals to act prudently at all times. When those standards are not met and harm befalls a patient, then a malpractice lawsuit might be filed.

But focusing only on medical mistakes–things like surgical problems, medications errors, and more–does not adequately cover all of the ways that a facility can disrespect patient rights and cause very real mental, emotional, and physical harm. Sadly, the drive for profits occasionally leads facilities to act inappropriately. Sometimes this involves trying to “get rid” of patients who, for whatever reason, are not as profitable. Because of certain insurance rules and other financial factors for patients, some hospitals skirt ethical rules in trying to get patients out of their facility.

Shuffled into Nursing Home

Can anything good come from medical malpractice? It is easy for local residents to be overwhelmed by anger, sadness, frustration, and grief in the aftermath of a medical error that causes significant injury or even death. Obviously everyone would prefer that the mistake never have happened. But each Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at our firm often explains to families that steps can be taken so that the tragedy is not all negative. When a doctor or medical facility is held legally accountable for their errors, then changes are often made (or mandated) which prevent mistakes in the future. Helping to improve the system in this way is just one of several reasons that families should not allow medical errors to be swept under the rug.

Along the same lines, ProPublica recently shared information on another way for community members to participate in discussion and ensure lessons are learned from medical mistakes. ProPublica is a free online journalism watchdog that exists to provide in-depth, helpful, and incisive information to consumers on any number of issues, including things like hospital safety and nursing home mistreatment.

ProPublica has a Facebook page which includes a “Patient Harm Group” where those affected by these problems come together to share their story, spread advocacy messages, and otherwise use synergy to educate and act as a force for good. Summarizing the efforts, a ProPublica article recently explained that “the [Facebook] group – among our efforts to use social media in the service of journalism – has grown into a robust forum for discussion and learning for participants and reporters alike.”

It is easy to get swept up in the reality of patient safety statistics which show that hundreds of thousands of patients continue to suffer preventable injury every year as a result of medical mistakes But focusing solely on the significant work still ahead can result in missing out on certain area where progress has been made or is being made. Even though our lawyers work with those harmed by negligent medical care, we are not oblivious to steps taken by some medical providers and facilities to cut back on certain problems.

For example, recently Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center shared encouraging news about a new research effort which found a decrease in the number of MRSA bloodstream infections when certain very basic cleanliness practices were followed. The story explains how a new research effort analyzing 75,000 patients found that two simple steps could decrease the developments of various infections, including the often-deadly MRSA, by 44% What were those two steps? Clensing intensive care patient skins every day with antiseptic wipes and applying an antimicrobal ointment to their nose. Thats it. The research, revelaed for the first time at a recent conference in San Diego (IDWeek), offers a great step forward that can be adopted by facilities across to country to limit infection and save lives.

As we often explain, there are simple safety and cleanliness steps that can be taken by all healthcare professionals which often means the difference between significant preventable injuries and far lower preventable injury tallys.

Safety matters in hospitals. Attorneys, patient care advocates, and others often harp on the current gaps in overall patient care quality. That is because there are still so many lives to be saved and injuries to be prevented by adherance to high quality safety protocols all of the time. Much of that advocacy is focused on actual malpractice–violations of professional standards of care that cause harm to unsupecting patients.

However, there are actually other dangers in medical facilities that are not exactly related to malpractice. Instead of violations of professional standards of care, even basic acts of negligene might occur in a hosptial that causes harm. For example, hosptials and staff members must be diligent and aware of the dangers posed by certain pieces of basic equipment, like bed rails. Far from being a safety device themselves, advocates have vociferously argued that these rails actually present serious risks of harm for those using them.

This point was discussed helpfully in the latest newsletter published by Biomedical Safety & Standards. The article noted how many consumer watchdog organizations have been making serious calls for bed rail reforms to entities like the Federal Trade Commission. The basic argument is that these bed rails pose serious safety risks, requiring changes in marketing practices, consumer warnings, and perhaps even recalls. According to the report, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has noted at least 525 deaths caused by bed rails. That is on top of the 125 documented cases from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. These tallys should not be taken as definitive analyses of all incidents, as many sitautions are often not reported.

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