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Tucson Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Electronic medical records may lead to misdiagnosis

In this day and age of advanced technology, many physicians and institutions use electronic medical records to document patient's’ health care symptoms, diagnosis, treatments and prescription medications. Although the technology is designed to eliminate mistakes and potential medical errors by keeping patient information in a format that can be shared easily with other physicians, software glitches in the system have led to many mistakes.

In one case, a woman died of a brain aneurysm which should have been caught during multiple visits to the physician’s office prior to her death. One physician had ordered a brain scan that would have potentially caught the problem, but the electronic system did not send the request to the lab, and the scan was never completed. Other reports of problems occurred when patient notes appeared under the wrong patients, medication lists failed to update, drug interaction warnings would not work in certain circumstances, wrong drugs would appear under patient profiles and lab results were not tracked. All of these software issues cause increased likelihood of medical errors that could harm or even kill patients.

No A grades given to Pima County hospitals

When you step into a hospital, you may want to know whether the institution has been given an A, B, C or D grade when it comes to healthcare safety, negligence and medical errors. This may affect which hospital you visit or whether you drive a further distance to go to an institution that has a higher grade.

A review of Arizona hospitals conducted by Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit organization with a mission to improve healthcare standards, graded hospitals across the country based on medical infections, injuries, errors and accidents that occur in these institutions. None of the medical institutions in Pima County were given an A, just Bs and Cs. More than 2,600 hospitals were graded across the country and 32% of these institutions received an A.

What is the Glasgow Coma Scale?

As the immediate shock that accompanies the news of your loved one having suffered a traumatic brain injury sets in, your thoughts may turn to one question: what is next? Your perception of TBI's may be that whoever suffers them will automatically need constant care throughout the rest of their lives in Pima. The cost of such care can be massive, and the emotional toll that comes from watching a family member or friend suffer through it can be just as devastating. Yet not all TBI's produce this outcome. Oftentimes, you loved one can indeed make a full recovery. 

How are you to know which prognosis they face? Clinicians conduct a response test immediately upon assuming the care of a TBI victim that might offer you this insight. This response test is measure along what is known as the Glasgow Coma Scale. The GCS measures how well your loved one responds through their motor skills, their speech and with their eye movement. Points are assigned in each category and then combined. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the point breakdown is as follows: 

  • 13-15 points: Mild brain injury
  • 9-12 points: Moderate brain injury
  • Less than 8 points: Severe brain injury

Women's heart attack symptoms often missed

To many people who live in Arizona, a sudden and intense pain in the chest may well be considered the classic sign that a person is having a heart attack. While this may actually happen in some instances of a heart attack, such check pain does not always present itself in a person who is experiencing a heart attack. In fact, some research has shown that women, in particular, may not exhibit this symptom when having a heart attack.

According to Healthline, the lack of what many consider to be standard heart attack signs in women may well contribute to as many as 50% of women's heart attacks to go undiagnosed or to be incorrectly diagnosed as some other problem. One study found that almost 55% of men who had heart attacks experienced three or more non-chest pain symptoms whereas close to 62% of female heart attack patients displayed at least three signs of non-chest pain.

Wrong diagnosis led to unnecessary surgery

Many people cannot imagine the strong emotions involved when being diagnosed with cancer. You may wonder how advanced the cancer is, what your treatment options are and whether or not you will survive. Now imagine how you would feel if you found out that you were wrongfully diagnosed with cancer, underwent surgery and now suffer irreversible damage due to medical negligence.

This is what happened to an Iowa man who underwent surgery and had his prostate removed due to a medical oversight. The clinic pathologist mixed up the man’s non-cancerous cell sample with another man who had cancerous prostate cells. Due to the mix up, the man was given a wrong diagnosis and was scheduled to have his prostate removed. After having the surgery performed, the clinic discovered the mishap. Consequently, the surgery caused nerve damage and the man is now incontinent and impotent.

Medication errors in the hospital

People who live in Arizona and must seek medical care or treatment at a hospital should be able to feel that they will receive good and safe care while there. Unfortunately, a hospital can actually be the very place where a person is injured when a medical error happens. Mistakes involving medications are one type of error that patients should be aware of.

As explained by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a medical mistake involving a drug and harm to a patient is called an adverse drug event. It is estimated that five percent of people in hospitals actually experience these events. Furthermore, an estimated one out of every two adverse drug events is said to be preventable. 

The dangers of electronic health records

In this day and age of booming technology, electronic health care records in the medical field are standard. Patients who are seen by primary care physicians, have surgical procedures performed or have screenings ordered by a specialist, have their records recorded in a database that can be easily shared between medical professionals. Although this technology would seem to break the barriers of medical miscommunication and decrease the rate of medical errors, this may not be true.

In one case, a woman died of a brain aneurysm because of an electronic health records system failure. During this situation, the woman’s physician listened to her complaints of on-going head pain and issued an order for a brain scan to rule out any bleeding. Yet, the order was not transmitted properly, and the woman did not receive the brain scan which could have saved her life.

Medical errors the nation’s third-most common cause of death

When you feel under the weather and your symptoms do not go away after a few days, chances are, you schedule a visit to your Arizona doctor to find out what is going on and what you can do to improve your condition. Similarly, when you go under the knife or otherwise seek treatment at a hospital, you place the same level of trust in the people treating you, believing that they know what they are doing and that you are in good hands. At the Law Office of JoJene E. Mills, P.C., we understand that health care professionals, like everyone, are not immune to making mistakes, but the mistakes some doctors, nurses and others make can have devastating consequences.

According to CNBC, medical mistakes are surprisingly common across the United States, and so much so that they have now become the third-biggest killer of Americans after cancer and heart disease. Just what types of medical mistakes are today’s health care professionals prone to making, and is there anything you can do to help protect yourself?

Medication errors by nurses

Doctors are not the only healthcare providers who make medical mistakes. Nurses in Arizona and around the country are often a patient's primary caretaker during the course of a hospital or nursing home stay, and medication errors are common. These mistakes can lead to serious issues, and healthcare facilities should work on improving systems to reduce these types of errors.

According to Sanford-Brown, medication errors are one of the top five mistakes made by nurses, especially new ones. When it comes to medication, there are numerous factors to consider, and an error related to any of them can be disastrous. When a nurse gives medication to a patient, first it is important to make sure it is the right medicine and the right patient. The nurse needs to then give the right dose at the right time. It also needs the right route, whether that is orally, intravenously, nasally, intramuscularly, rectally or subcutaneously.

Are you able to return to work following a TBI?

If you suffer from a traumatic brain injury, you may be dealing with a wide-range of symptoms that can affect many areas of your life. You may find it difficult to concentrate, remember things, communicate with others, reason, problem-solve and schedule appointments. Furthermore, you may experience physical and psychological limitations, such as muscle weakness, fatigue, vision and auditory problems, depression, anxiety, and impulsivity. All of these things may affect your ability to return to work, or at least the position you held prior to being diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury.

When you do return to work, you may not be able to perform all of the tasks that you once did. Some employers will make changes to accommodate your limitations. Yet, you may be able to facilitate your transition back to work by incorporating the following:

  •          Take frequent rest breaks throughout your shift
  •          Take on less responsibilities when you first return
  •          Start by working shorter shifts then gradually increase to longer shifts
  •          Communicate your needs with your employer