Many patients are unaware that they can hire an advocate to protect their interests and safety during hospital stays. An independent patient advocate, often with a medical background, can notice subtle potential mishaps or errors that could lead to adverse outcomes. They can also help patients communicate with their healthcare team and encourage open, honest dialogue. They can help patients file complaints or grievances against medical errors. And if needed, advocates can connect them with legal experts who specialize in medical malpractice cases.

Inquiries into hospital deaths frequently reveal that mistakes or omissions were the cause of death. It is important for patients to be aware of the dangers of medical error, so that they can ask questions and take steps to minimize them. This article will explore the nature of medical error and provide tips for minimizing the risk of it occurring during a hospital stay.

Medical errors can include any action that is taken by a practitioner in the wrong way, or at the wrong time. It can also be a failure to do something that is clearly required by the patient’s condition or care plan.

Despite popular depictions of doctors being portrayed as infallible and incapable of making mistakes, the reality is much different. Even the best practitioners make Clinical Error Advocate, and most of these are due to system failures rather than individual failings. Blaming individuals for errors that are not their fault is unlikely to inspire a culture of safety in the medical profession, and it certainly is not likely to prevent errors from happening again.

Diagnostic errors are a major cause of death in the United States and result when a patient is diagnosed with an illness or disease that they do not have, or when they receive treatment for a condition that does not exist. These errors are also the leading cause of non-fatal injuries to hospitalized patients.

These errors are caused by a variety of factors including focusing on previously established diagnoses, poor hygiene, distractions and a lack of time spent with the patient. Additionally, patients with comorbid conditions are at increased risk for error as practitioners may err by concentrating on their existing illnesses rather than ruling out new organic problems.

Systemic errors, or systems failures, are the main causes of diagnostic and medication errors. These can include insufficient staffing, failure to follow written protocols and procedures, stocking medications that are dangerous on the floor dispensers without pharmacist oversight, a lack of double and triple-checks for medication administration involving look-alike or sound-alike drugs, and an insufficient process for reporting abnormal test results. Systems that decrease these errors can include barcoding, standardized units of measurement, and electronic medical records. It is also important for hospitals to have an on-call pharmacist who can review and approve medications before they are dispensed. Patients can help by taking an active role in the prevention of medical errors and seeking out a trusted, experienced patient advocate.

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