In a 2016 study published in the British Medical Journal, a Johns Hopkins research team found that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for nearly 250,000 deaths each year, and possibly even more.
Between lack of coordination, communication and easy oversight of medications or other missed conditions, it is easy to see how easily medical mistakes and errors can occur. We’ve all heard stories on the news about physicians operating on the wrong body part, operating on the wrong patient, or accidentally prescribing the wrong dosage of medication. There’s even the story of the nurse giving the wrong medication because there was another one that was written very similarly. Then we have the physician “chicken scratch” that nurses are supposed to transcribe as orders for treatments of medications, that they can hardly make out from the rough handwriting.
Many facilities are starting to digitize these orders in hopes of avoiding more errors, but not all have moved there yet. The numerous ways in which medical errors can occur in the facility setting goes on and on. Doctors, nurses, and other care providers are not infallible beings.
We all make mistakes on the job, just some jobs have much higher stakes. Medical mistakes represent a serious cost to your personal health.
How do we mitigate these medical mistakes?
You must take a proactive approach with experts by your side. You need someone who understands the language, the hierarchy, and the system. You need someone by your side who can ask the right questions, and who sees a mistake before it happens. This requires years of education, training, and patient care. It requires care providers who work for you and on your behalf, so that your journey through the healthcare system is the safest it can possibly be for you, so that you or one of your loved ones does not become a statistic.