Hospitals Need to Continue Focus on Patient Risk

Late last month the Bloomington Pantagraph reported on efforts by one Illinois hospital to improve patient safety and minimize unnecessary risk of harm. All of these efforts should be praised. Each Illinois medical malpractice lawyer at our firm is intimately familiar with the way that preventable hospital mistakes can devastate families. Hopefully more and more facilities commit resources to these sorts of efforts–and lawmakers do the same–instead of pushing laws that actually have adverse effects on patient safety. Considering hundreds of thousands of patients are killed and injured as a result of preventable errors, the motivation to tackle the problem should be strong.

The story summarizes the work of the medical center to account for safety concerns. The facility has a “patient safety” hotline, with calls reviewed by a patient safety team and then followed-up with by managers. Overall trends are then analyzed with staff members and the director of quality of resource management.

Besides identifying past mistakes, the center also rewards conduct that prevents errors. For example, staff members are recognized for catching an error before it reaches the patient. Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers support identification of catching mistakes. Considering our work involves accountability and redress after a mistake already happens, we understand that the ultimate goal is always to stop mistakes from actually harming a patient. Redress in the aftermath is important but always incomplete,.

According to those focusing on safety efforts at the hospital, technology is playing a helpful role. For example, medication bar coding and electronic medication orderings are helpful ways to streamline some processes that can prove harmful if done incorrectly.

The Beneficial Effects
Has the facility’s shift in focus to patient safety had measurable effects? Yes.

The facility listed a string of identifiable improvements attributable to changes at the center. For example, adverse drug events (ADEs) reportedly dropped five-fold in a one year period, from 7.4 per 1,000 patient days to 1.63 per 1,000. Patient falls decreased from 1.32 per 1,000 patient days to .94.

Many working on medical malpractice issues report that preventable infections are some of the most harmful, and widespread problems. This medical facility saw improvement in this area as well. For example, catheter-associated urinary tract infections dropped from 1.34 to .99 infections per 1,000 patient days. Central line infections dropped to .67 from .84 infections per 1,000 patient days.

Some problems were wiped out altogether. In the last twelve months not single patient at the facility suffered from a stage 3 or 4 pressure ulcer. This is consistent with the fact that these ulcers, particularly severe versions of them, are almost always preventable with proper care and oversight. In other words, we have the tools to prevent the problem, but we simply need to wield them.

Our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys applaud the work of these facilities to strengthen quality control. This story is a testament to the fact that safety improvements can be made if medical centers commit to improving patient care. Hopefully more follow leads like this one to protect all local community members.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Consumer Reports Releases Hospital Safety Ratings

WSJ Editorial on the Cost of Healthcare

Lawyer Monthly - Legal Awards Winner
The National Trial Lawyers
Elder Care Matters Alliance
American Association for Justice
Fellow Litigation Counsel of America
Super Lawyers