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Need to Focus on Medical Errors Outside the Hospital

A stereotype of medical errors usually involves the belief that all medical mistakes take place while a vulnerable patient is in a hospital bed or on the surgical table. Upon hearing the words “Illinois medical malpractice” most think of accidents like the improper administrative of drugs to bedridden patients or the consequences of a slip of the surgical knife.

Yet, a more thorough understanding of the truth about these events requires looking beyond the hospital. As a recent post on the Wall Street Journal Health Blog argued, just as many medical errors take place in out-patient settings than at actual hospitals. This was made clear by a new study in the Journal of American Medical Association that analyzed malpractice claims.

The survey discovered that the total number of claims paid out by physicians for malpractice events were roughly equal between out and in-patient claims. The trends did not change much over the past few years, except that out-patient claims have slightly risen as a percentage of total number of errors.

The researchers who made the findings expressed surprise at the results. One investigator explained how she did not expect the total number of outpatient malpractice claims to be nearly that high. She suggested a possible reason, reporting that “there are many more sites of outpatient care than inpatient care, and many outpatient sites may be too small to have well-trained staff who devote significant attention to improving patient safety.”

By far the single largest cause of outpatient medical errors involved failure to diagnose. As we have often reported, a medical professional’s failure to diagnose represents one of the most deadly potential forms of error. One author explained how these diagnostic mistakes are best understood not as a single error but a series of breakdowns in the process.

Other commons forms of error that occur outside the hospital are those involving medication and the transition from a hospital to community-based care.

Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti believe in reasonable care at all locations where medical treatment is provided. The consequences of out-patient mistakes can be just as harmful as those that occur in hospitals. It is important for all patients to understand those risks and take appropriate action if they feel that they may have fallen victim to inadequate care.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Medication Errors Requires Millions to Receive Additional Care

Improving Healthcare Requires Identifying the Most Common Medication Errors