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Hospital errors may be more common than previously believed

Many medical malpractice cases are inextricably connected to errors made in a hospital. While there has been progress made in the safety of treatment patient's receive in Maryland hospitals and in hospitals across the U.S., recent studies indicate that hospital errors are occurring at an alarming rate. The frequency of hospital errors could be as much as 10 times higher than previously believed.

When researchers study hospital safety, they key statistic they keep track of is the number of "adverse events." Broadly defined, adverse events are events that result in some type of harm to the patient that would not have happened if no mistake had been made.

A study published in this month's edition of Health Affairs, a medical journal, reviewed 795 patient charts at three hospitals. The researchers involved in the study reviewed the charts with a technique known as the global trigger tool, which uses triggers, or clues, to identify adverse events. The team led by Dr. David C. Classen, found 354 adverse events in the 795 patient charts. That amounts to nearly one adverse event for every two patients.

Dr. Classen cautions that the number of adverse events could be even higher because some of the patient charts contained incomplete information. However, he believes that his study provides the most accurate information to date on the rate of hospital errors.

Classen states that there were three common types of hospital errors. Many patients experienced medication errors, including patients who received incorrect dosages or incorrect medications. Surgical errors were also more common than previously thought. Additionally, the study found that many patients acquired an infection while in the hospital and this usually resulted from bad sanitation.

Considering how a hospital error can have lasting and devastating effects of a patient's quality of life, the study's findings are very disturbing. When a doctor or hospital makes a mistake and that mistake harms a patient, they need to be held accountable. If you or a family member has suffered an injury due to a medical error, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can advise you of your rights under the law.

Source: CBS, "Hospital errors rampant, study says: What can patients do?," David W Freeman, 4/7/2011

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