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How the healthcare system may cause harm – Part VII

Most in New York City would likely list healthcare professionals as being among the most knowledgeable and educated people that they know. Yet for all of the clinical education that doctors, surgeons, physician’s assistants and nurses possess, a lack of provider knowledge is still often cited as the primary cause of clinical errors. This does not imply that they are dumb, but rather that their conclusions may not be supported by the most up-to-date research, technologies and treatment protocols.

Examples of where a lack of medical knowledge is often manifested are cases involving medication errors. Oftentimes, the potential side effects of a drug are not discovered during clinical trials, which is why, according to the AARP Bulletin, laws were enacted in 2007 requiring drug manufacturers to conduct post-market safety studies. Follow-up investigations showed, however, that even with this legislation in place, 40 percent of these required studies had not been commenced within four years of its passage. Thus, providers may be prescribing potentially dangerous medications without knowing of their harmful effects. Similar failures in acquiring the most current clinical information may result in clinicians employing unsafe practices in their treatment methods and surgical protocols.  

Other cases of lack of knowledge may not be due to missing or inaccurate information, but rather provider oversight. Most assume that their doctors will review their health histories prior to rendering treatment. However, patient survey information shared by Health Data Management shows medical record research shortcomings such as:

  •          Doctors not knowing their patients’ allergies in 61 percent of cases.
  •          Doctors unaware of patients’ prior doctor visits or hospitalizations in 44 percent of cases.
  •          Doctors unaware of patients’ recent surgeries in 40 percent of cases.

A doctor lacking such information could reasonably prescribe treatments or medications that may easily endanger his or her patients. 

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