BWG Consumer Alert: January 2012

Only One in Seven Medical Errors Reported

Medical Errors A new Medicare report finds hospital employees are only reporting one of seven medical errors and adverse events they observe. And when hospitals investigate and find mistakes, they often fail to make changes.

In addition, employees do not report errors because they fail to recognize patients are harmed, the report said. Mistakes are sometimes so common employees think no reporting is required. Unreported incidents include: medication errors, hospital-acquired infections, bedsores and overuse of painkillers.

The report was issued by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services. To read more, click here.

If you are receiving hospital treatment, you can protect yourself by taking these steps:

  • Educate Yourself! There is a wealth of information on the Internet about medical conditions and medical procedures. Learn the basic facts and do not hesitate to ask your doctor detailed questions.
  • Hand Washing. Ask medical staff if they have washed their hands before they provide care.
  • Surgical Checklist. Ask the hospital if it uses a surgical checklist. This is a document in which surgeons check off pre-surgery tasks to make sure they are all completed.
  • Patient Advocate. Bring a family member or friend along to serve as your "patient advocate," to ask questions and observe your medical care.
  • Medication List. Carry a list of your medications and review it with medical staff before you take your medication. Make sure medical staff is aware of any medication allergies.

Click here for more information about the protections you have as a Massachusetts healthcare patient.

Click here for more information and a video on surgical checklists.

Your Right to Request Your Medical Records

Medical Records You have an absolute right under Massachusetts law to get your medical records. Obtaining your records is the best way to make informed decisions about your medical care and ensure you are receiving safe treatment. Here is what to know and expect:

  • Compliance Form. You will be asked to sign a HIPAA compliance form.
  • Requesting Records for Others. Parents can request records on behalf of children. In cases involving a patient's death, only the duly appointed representative of the deceased's estate can make the request.
  • Full Chart or Summary. You have the right to request a complete "page-by-page" medical chart, though you may wish to get only a summary if the chart is very large.
  • Copying Fees. Be mindful that you may be asked to pay for copying. Ask for an estimated fee first.
  • No Requirement to Answer Questions. You do not have to share why you are requesting your medical records.

FDA: Hospitals Not Sterilizing Surgical Equipment

Surgical Equipment The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is studying why some medical facilities are failing to properly sterilize medical devices for reuse in surgeries and endoscopy procedures.

The result is patients are being exposed to microscopic amounts of blood, body fluids and tissues from other patients, according to a recent FDA Consumer Update. Patients are being exposed through surgical instruments such as clamps, forceps and endoscopes.

The FDA states that transmission of infection was extremely rare in reports of patient exposure, but advises patients to protect themselves by learning about their medical procedure and asking their medical facility what steps it takes to reprocess surgical instruments.

Click here for more information.

The Boston medical malpractice lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck have a proven record of securing compensation for clients injured in cases involving hospital errors, surgical malpractice, medication errors and failure to diagnose cancer and other illnesses. If you have suffered an injury, contact us today for a free legal consultation to learn your rights for seeking compensation. We can be reached at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.
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