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Hospital Error Claims in Kentucky

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Medical errors put the health of Americans at risk. Estimates are that there are between 210,000 and 440,000 patient deaths per year as the result of medical mistakes. Many more patients suffer long term injury, health consequences and financial burdens resulting from medical errors. Additionally, the healthcare industry sees tremendous financial repercussions from medical errors to the tune of approximately $19 billion per year. Patient advocacy groups, the government and the healthcare industry are realizing that many of these errors are preventable and together they are trying to address strategies to improve the quality of healthcare for all Americans.

The Partnership for Patients initiative was founded in 2011 as part of The Affordable Care Act. Its mission is to make hospitals safer, more reliable and less expensive for the public sector. This partnership is formed of representatives from hospitals, doctors groups, nursing groups, consumer groups and employers. Together they have identified the 9 most common hospital acquired conditions and have presented a challenge to the medical community to come up with solutions to eliminate or substantially reduce medical errors that result in needless deaths, injury, suffering and financial waste.

The 9 Most Common Medical Errors in Hospitals

  1. Adverse Drug Effects – Medical mistakes frequently occur when patients are given the incorrect medicines, the incorrect dosages or experience drug interaction or allergic reactions. Errors also occur when patients are not properly monitored after receiving prescription drugs. Hospitals can help address these risks by better use of electronic health records, more pharmacist involvement during hospital stays, the use of “smart” pumps and improved monitoring of high risk medications.
  2. Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections – Patients often suffer urinary tract infections as a result of having a urinary catheter (a device that draws urine from the bladder). Hospitals should be diligent in the sterile conditions when inserting, using and removing catheters in patients. Doctors and nurses should also assess the patient to determine if a catheter is necessary and should consider reducing the time a patient uses a catheter.
  3. Central Line-Associated Blood Stream Infections – According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, there are between 84,000 and 203,000 preventable blood stream infections occurring each year from catheters that are placed into a vein in the neck, chest or groin. Infections can be reduced dramatically by simple hand hygiene, better use of caps/masks/gowns and gloves when administering catheters, using chlorexidine in skin preparations, and more diligent monitoring of central lines.
  4. Injuries from Falls and Immobility – The US National Library of Medicine estimates that nearly one million patients suffer falls in hospitals. Falls can further complicate injuries or cause new injuries resulting in pain, suffering and extended hospital stays. Hospitals can minimize risk by identifying high risk patients on the front end and individualizing their care. Hospitals can help to make call lights easily accessible, have portable alarms for high risk patients, keep equipment (such as beds, walkers and wheel chairs) well maintained, by using night lights and working with patients to schedule bathroom visits. Doctors and hospital staffs should also consider bed rails, lowered beds, padding, etc.
  5. Obstetrical Adverse Events – Childbirth is one of the most common reasons for hospital care, and consequently, childbirth represents a high percentage of adverse events. Hospital staff, doctors and nurses can reduce medical errors in this area in many ways, such as
    • Proper use and dosage of oxytocin (labor induction drug)
    • Proper management and use of Fetal Heart Rate Monitoring
    • Decreasing the practice of elective delivery of babies less than 39 weeks
    • Prompt treatment of obstetric hemorrhage (or any bleeding)
    • Timely use of C-Sections when medically necessary
  6. Pressure Ulcers (Bed Sores) – These injuries are formed when muscle and soft tissue press against a surface resulting in blood supply being cut off and producing skin lesions. Bed sores can be dramatically reduced by using the correct mattresses and linens, routine turning and repositioning of the patient, addressing and attention to incontinence issues, and even proper nutrition and hydration.
  7. Surgical Site Infections – Nearly 3% of all surgeries result in surgical site infections. The rate of infections can be impacted by many hospital procedures such as sanitized hand preparation, prophylactic antibiotic use, minimizing blood transfusions, and identifying MRSA patients prior to surgery and treating appropriately.
  8. Venous Thrombosis/embolism – The formation of a blood clot in a patient can be one of the most critical of all medical related errors. Hospitals can be more proactive in identifying high risk patients and utilizing pharmaceuticals and other medical devices in an effort to prevent blood clots. Doctors can reduce unnecessary central venous catheters which can increase the chances of vein thrombosis, and if central venous catheters are medically necessary, then ensure proper use, monitoring and removal of catheters.
  9. Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia – Patients who require breathing assistance during and after surgery are at an escalated risk of developing lung infections. Medical personnel should work to decrease the utilization and duration of time a person is on a ventilator. Recommendations also include improvement in oral cleaning and decontamination of the patient, proper head elevation of the patient, and routine draining of the ventilator tubing.

The good news is that it appears patient safety is beginning to get the attention it deserves. It is in the best interest of public health and the medical community to address these and other serious medical errors and identify solutions to reduce patient risk. Brett Oppenheimer is a Kentucky medical malpractice attorney who is committed to making hospitals safer for the community. Health care providers have a legal duty to their patients to provide a standard of care.

If you believe you or a loved one was injured in a Kentucky hospital due to medical errors, you are encouraged to consult Brett H. Oppenheimer, PLLC. Brett’s offices are in Louisville, but he handles hospital cases across Kentucky. Brett can help you with the process of determining the merits of your potential case.