When patients get ready to undergo a surgical procedure or are seen to receive a medical diagnosis, they rely on the medical professionals to take care of them. Although people may believe that the surgeons, assistants and physicians operating on them will perform to the best of their ability, medical mistakes and errors can and do happen. Medical errors come in third as a leading cause of death, following heart disease and cancer. What causes medical errors and what can be done to minimize their effect on patients?
A study released by UC San Francisco reported that improved communication between patients and medical professionals can reduce errors by up to 30%. Each patient’s healthcare is comprised of an interdisciplinary team made up of physicians, specialists, nurses and pharmacists. Communication is critical amongst these professionals, as they exchange information regarding patient symptoms, diagnosis, treatments, medications, allergies and adverse reactions.
When the information is missed or given incorrectly, it can be disastrous for patients. Medical miscommunication errors contribute to more than 1,000 deaths every day, but it is hard to determine exactly how many people are injured or killed as a result of these types of mistakes. According to the Journal of Patient Safety, the number of people who suffered otherwise preventable harm due to miscommunication lies between 210,000 and 440,000.
Patients should be involved in their healthcare and ask questions regarding their medical care. For example, a patient referred to a specialist may be taking a medication prescribed by the specialist and a duplicate drug ordered by the physician. The drug duplication could cause serious side effects and complications.