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Study on never events shows how prevalent they are

According to a recent study done by Johns Hopkins University, better procedures and mandatory reporting systems may reduce never event occurrence.

The term "never event" may seem vague and difficult to understand for those who live in New York. When one of these medical errors takes place, it could lead to serious injury, health complications or death. Leapfrog, an online site that promotes transparency between hospitals and patients, states that there are 29 events which should never occur in a health care setting. The group points out that hospitals should have their own policies set up to reduce the occurrences of these errors and properly deal with the aftermath when a mistake takes place.

The errors

Recently, researchers from Johns Hopkins University used a national medical database to figure out how often never events occur. In the course of 20 years, approximately 80,000 medical errors that never should happen took place. This equates to a yearly average of 4,044 surgical mistakes happening in the United States. The severity of the error could range from temporary injury to death. The study showed that 59.2 percent of these events left patients temporarily injured, 32.9 percent never recovered fully from the medical error and 6.6 percent died as a result of the preventable injury.

In the course of a week, about 20 surgeries are performed on the wrong body site, 39 foreign objects are left in the patient's body and 20 patients undergo the wrong surgery. While these medical errors are rare, they are still happening more often than they should.

The solution

What can be done to make sure these events never happen, such as their name suggests? Researchers recommend better procedures and reporting systems are needed to prevent errors. Giving the public better access to records of these events could help prevent the mistakes from taking place because patients will be able to choose hospitals with fewer incidences. Currently, hospitals have to report any events that end in a settlement and are supposed to voluntarily give information to the Joint Commission. However, the voluntary information is not always shared, and it may not always be available to the public.

Most hospitals already have taken action to eliminate accidents by putting protocols in place such as the following:

  • Perform an electronic inventory of sponges, towels and other surgical items before and after a surgery.
  • Review surgical plans and medical records before the surgery to make sure the correct patient is in the operating room.
  • Mark the patient and the site with indelible ink before anesthesia is applied.

A combination of these policies, reporting and other strategies may aid in ending the occurrences of surgical never events.

When a medical professional makes a mistake in New York City, there should be some sort of procedure in place to protect the patient. An attorney who is familiar with medical malpractice cases may be able to help people affected by surgical never events.

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