Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys know that many different causes are often at play when medical mistakes are made that lead to harm to a patient. Our decades of experience have made clear that while similarities exist in many situations, no two cases are always identical. A comprehensive approach to improving medical care requires consideration and understanding of all of those potential causes. It is only when the totality of the process is considered-and potential changes recommended-that mistakes can actually be eliminated and lives ultimately saved.
For example, yesterday the Wall Street Journal discussed how failure of patients to ask questions-or doctors to encourage them-is one cause of medical errors. New data from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has found that even though problems with patient-doctor communications have been known for years, there is a long way to go before there is a free flow of communication throughout the caregiving process. Experts believe that intimidation is a large part of the problem, as doctors in the white coats often do not appear open to honest questioning. In addition, time pressure may be involved, as many patients now have less personal interaction with doctors and nurses as they did before.
To help counteract the problem (and ultimately reduce the prevalence of medical malpractice) the agency is launching a new campaign this week to encourage patients to ask more questions. Specifically, the group is hoping to have patients prioritize their concerns before even meeting with a medical professional. Then, when the doctor or nurse is around, the patient can be ready to use the time to ask necessary questions. The agency is offering new tools on its website to help in the effort, including a “Question Builder.”
In addition, the agency is launching a campaign targeting doctors. The group is urging the medical professionals to ask patients about their health priorities and to be open to the pressing concerns of those whom they are aiding. The communication problem needs to be address both by doctors and their patients.
One patient that is assisting in the awareness project explains how he had continually heart problems without ever having much of a dialogue with his doctor. He assumed that the doctor was the expert and that he shouldn’t question anything that he was told. He reports taking medications without knowing what they were for, sitting for hours in the waiting room, and then being rushed through an appointment. He explains how he wishes he would have been more active in his care to ensure mistakes weren’t made and to learn how he could prevent problems from developing.
The Illinois medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti are committed to keeping all avenues open that helps reduce the prevalence of medical errors and provides redress for those who have been hurt because of medical mistakes which should have been prevented. As this and similar research demonstrates, it is vital that patients remain very active participants in the medical process: asking questions when unclear, demanding answers when things go awry, and ensuring that medical professionals are accountable when mistakes are made which should have been avoided.
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