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Study examines common emergency room errors, causes

A recent study examines the most common emergency room errors as well as their causes.

When you go to the emergency room, you have likely experienced a serious or traumatic event such as a car accident, symptoms of a heart attack, or other pressing medical conditions. Regardless of the reason for your visit, you expect that trained and competent physicians and healthcare professionals will treat you. In most cases, the care you receive rises to this level. However, in some cases, you may receive substandard care because of an egregious error or negligence committed by your caregivers. Unfortunately, when this occurs, it can result in an injury, or even death in serious cases.

In order to reduce the risk of emergency room errors for patients, one of the nation's largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurance providers recently published a study analyzing the most common causes of malpractice lawsuits arising from substandard ER care.

Findings of study

The Doctors Company recently published the study entitled, Emergency Medicine Closed Claims Study. In the study, researchers analyzed 332 closed claims where patients had alleged that an ER provider had committed negligence. Based on the data, the four leading causes of the claims were:

Diagnostic errors. These errors made up the majority of the patient claims, accounting for 57 percent. These claims included misdiagnoses as well as delays in making a diagnosis.

Failure to properly manage treatment. These allegations comprised 13 percent of all claims. Examples included a failure to stabilize a patient's neck or failing to adequately explore an infected wound for foreign bodies.

Improper treatment. Five percent of claims involved allegations that the provider failed to perform the procedure or treatment that was appropriate for the patient's symptoms.

Failure to medicate patient. Three percent of claims involved instances where the provider failed to order or provide medication if the patient's symptoms warranted it. An example is a failing to prescribe antibiotics for an infection.

The study also identified the factors that were behind the alleged emergency room errors. According to the study, the causes of the claims were:

Errors in patient assessment: failing to order tests, establish a differential diagnosis, and other errors in the diagnosis process. This was present in 52 percent of cases.

Patient factors: Patient characteristics causing a delay in care (e.g. morbid obesity or failing to follow treatment plan). This made up 21 percent of cases.

Poor communication among healthcare providers: Responsible for 17 percent of cases.

Communication problems between provider and patient: Includes inadequate treatment instructions to patient and language barriers. This occurred in 14 percent of cases.

Documentation errors: Include a failure to document or review patient's records-present 13 percent of the time.

Workload/Workflow issues: Examples include staffing issues or long wait times for patients in critical condition. This was present in 12 percent of cases.

An attorney can help

If you have been injured because of a mistake while in an emergency room, you may face a lifetime of consequences stemming from it. Accordingly, under Pennsylvania law, you may be entitled to recover damages for your past and future medical bills, loss of wages and other losses that you have suffered. The experienced attorneys at The Law Offices of Gismondi & Associates have over 30 years of experience of holding negligent physicians accountable and can work on your behalf to achieve the most positive result possible.

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