Patients in New York and across the country may be surprised to learn that the third-highest cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer, is medical error, according to Healthcare IT News. In addition to the approximately 1,000 deaths that occur each day, emergency room errors and other mistakes are responsible for 10,000 serious health complications.
Health professionals and government officials are trying to find out why medical errors are so prevalent. Of particular concern is why the increased use of information technology is not having more of a positive impact on patient health. Despite improvements in electronic documentation, a study in the Journal of Patient Safety estimates that preventable harm is a factor in 400,000 patient deaths annually.
Medical errors can occur when the right tests are not ordered, or when a follow-up is required but not initiated, or when the request is not documented. As a result, patients can suffer from a delayed diagnosis, or a diagnosis that is missed entirely. Electronic technology, in these cases, may be only as effective as the medical professionals who are using it.
Healthcare IT News cited the opinion of Tejal Gandhi, MD, president of the National Patient Safety Foundation and associate professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School. Gandhi stated that while medical error is often the cause of harm, it is not always identified as such. She stated that its effects are still frequently mistaken for complications of the patient’s disease or injury. The Journal for Patient Safety states that full engagement with patients, combined with accountability, are essential to correct this trend.