Preventable Medical Mistakes Are America’s Third Leading Cause of Death
Posted on behalf of Goldberg Finnegan, LLC on Nov 14, 2014 in Medical Malpractice
The worlds largest commercial airliner is the Airbus A380, carrying up to 853 passengers. Imagine for a moment that an Airbus crashed somewhere in the world, every single day for a year. The death toll would still be 100,000 people short of the number of Americans killed by preventable medical errors annually. The key word here is preventable, which is why these findings are so shocking.
Preventable medical errors/mistakes are the third leading cause of death in this country, trailing only behind heart disease and cancer. Approximately 400,000 people die from preventable medical mistakes every year, or over a thousand a day. The annual cost to our economy is over a trillion dollars, though that figure is nothing compared to the grief that the families of these people feel.
Even more shocking is the fact that researchers estimate that the number of serious medical complications from preventable mistakes is ten times the number of estimated deaths, meaning that 10,000 people a day are seriously and irreparably injured due to medical errors/mistakes, malpractice, or incompetence.
Senate Investigates Medical Mistakes
This summer, the United States Senate held a hearing to address the issue of medical mistakes. Speakers at the hearing told horror stories of how preventable mistakes had ruined peoples lives. One doctor spoke of a woman who endured a double mastectomy to treat her breast cancer, only to find later that her test results had been mixed up with another patients results, and she never had cancer at all.
After hearing the extent of the problem, the medical experts recommended several courses of action, including increasing the number of registered nurses, increasing funding to research and quality control organizations, and establishing incentives for meeting patient care standards.
What these numbers say is that every day, a 747 [airplane], two of them are crashing, we would not tolerate that degree of preventable harm in any other forum.
Dr. Peter Pronovost
The main suggestion, however, was that the healthcare industry needed to improve and revise the way they use electronic health records (EHRs). While hospitals and medical centers are rapidly adopting new technologies, they are not using these technologies efficiently or in a way which would increase patient safety. Experts pointed out that technology needs to be improved in a way that would reduce the chances of preventable human error, and that the industry needs a large-scale implementation of centralized patient data storage and standardized protocols for EHR documenting and reporting.
Without an industry-wide, standardized reporting system, preventable human error can still result in preventable medical errors/mistakes. For example, one doctor recounted a patient who suffered a critical delay in treatment because of the way test results were documented between offices. The patients new provider listed their test results in reverse chronological order (newest test results on top) and her old provider used the opposite (newest results on bottom). The new providers office missed that her latest pap smear was abnormal because of its location in the electronic medical record and the difference in the location where the two offices documented test results.
Preventable Deaths Are Unacceptable
No matter the reasons that medical mistakes occur, the hard truth is that medical mistakes are killing hundreds of Americans every day. Dr. Peter Pronovost, testifying at the Senate hearing, recounted it best when he said, "What these numbers say is that every day, a 747 [airplane], two of them are crashing, we would not tolerate that degree of preventable harm in any other forum."
At Goldberg Finnegan & Mester, we believe that you also should not tolerate preventable medical mistakes which affect you or your family. You trust your medical providers to help you recover from illness or injury when this trust is broken because of their negligence, you deserve to be compensated for your pain.
If you or your loved one has been injured by a medical error/mistake, the medical malpractice attorneys at Goldberg Finnegan are here to help. Call (888) 213-8140 to schedule your free consultation with our office today.