Scientific and technological advances have revolutionized the healthcare industry. As medical technology improves, doctors and nurses are provided with additional options to help their patients maintain good health and live longer. However, with these advancements comes a price: increasingly higher chances of committing medical errors. The widespread use of new, innovative medical equipment in facilities and hospitals invokes the need for medical professionals who are adequately trained to use these devices. The lack of qualified staff available to appropriately operate this equipment leads to more medical errors and is a major contributor to the rising rates of medical malpractice suits.
Last year, the British Medical Journal concluded that medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States, closely following heart disease and cancer. The grand-scale of this issue has provoked researchers to seek answers as to how to reduce fatalities and address any preventable causation that could be resolved on both micro and systemic levels. Some analysts, like members of the John Hopkins team, blame the issue on a lack of transparency. They claim that incidents attributable to medical care “haven't been recognized in any standardized method for collection national statistics.”
But in addition to more efficient coding and reporting, studies indicate that preventable errors frequently occur around the time when new technology is introduced into a medical facility or hospital setting. Medical errors occur more frequently when staff doesn't fully understand how a device is intended to be operated, or how it is to be integrated into their practice.
An independent state agency, known as the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, conducted a study highlighting technology's pivotal role in this debacle. The group, who is dedicated to finding ways to reduce medical errors, analyzed medical records from the first six months of last year. Their findings revealed that Pennsylvania hospitals reported 889 medication errors, which were all attributable to electronic health records (EHRs) - an electronic version of a patient's medical history - and other technology used to document and monitor patients' treatment. Of those 889 errors, nearly 70% of them were not resolved before they reached the patient. And among those, eight patients were harmed (to what extent they were harmed was not detailed).
These numbers reflect a serious issue not only a statewide scale but on a wide spectrum also. In 2015, several physician groups sent a nine-page letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Their intent was to coherently communicate their growing frustrations with the incorporation of EHRs in medical settings. But more importantly, express their concerns for the patients who suffer as a result of system errors or staff mishaps. Physicians claimed the EHRs needed to be “toned down, be less complex, and be used less.”
In order to minimize the rates of medical errors, hospitals and advocacy groups have developed human-factor research teams whose main goal is to thoroughly investigate new technology in the medical field and its risk factors. They are working avidly to ensure technology is more helpful than it is harmful.
If you or a loved one has been injured while in the care of a medical professional, you may be entitled to compensation. Call the law office of attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at (800) 529-6162 or contact them online.