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Medical Negligence: Where Does It All Go Wrong?

Medical negligence is a big problem, making it important to identify why it happens and where it comes from.

We’ve given you an overview of medical negligence statistics in the past. Here’s some further information about how those statistics break down in practice.

When and where do medical professionals make mistakes? We use the research to give you the low-down.

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Medication Errors

Medication errors shouldn’t happen as often as they do, as all medical professionals are rigorously trained to avoid making errors with patient medication. Correctly dispensing and allotting medication is the one thing that everyone from pharmacists to nursing assistants within the medical industry should, based on their training, know how to do.

Medication errors still account for around 5% of medical errors in cases where the patient died, which may be due to difficult-to-predict interactions with pre-existing conditions and other medication being taken as much as overdosing or underdosing a patient.

Failure To Recognise A Complication

When a patient is already ill, especially if they are already significantly ill, it can be very difficult to pick out a new symptom as a sign of a developing complication. A sudden, severe headache could easily be related to any number of factors that don’t necessarily require a medical complication as an explanatory factor.

Because complications might not be noticeable when a patient is ill, around another 5% of medical errors that result in death are due to failure to recognise complications as they arise.

Failure To Supervise Or Monitor A Case

A failure of care in every sense, the failure to supervise and monitor a case can often lead to multiple errors, including medication errors and failure to recognise complications.

It can also lead a patient and their relatives to feel helpless, frustrated and abandoned during an extremely vulnerable time in their lives, adding an emotional and mental health aspect to an already-horrible situation.

A little over 10% of medical errors where the patient died are due to a failure to properly supervise or monitor a patient’s healthcare.

Improper Performance

In a case of improper performance, the healthcare professional significantly underperforms certain minimum standards expected of them as a matter of course.

Approximately 15% of medical errors that were related to patient death were due to improper performance.

Errors In Diagnosis

Misdiagnosis occurs in roughly 15% of all attempts at diagnosis. This can be because of systematic or personal failure, but is unacceptable in either case.

Misdiagnosis can be divided into:

Missed Diagnosis – A correct diagnosis was not made. The symptoms were presented but the patient was told that they were healthy, when they were genuinely ill. This occurs in some 55% of cases of diagnostic error.

Delayed Diagnosis – A correct diagnosis is eventually made, but after the problem has had time to develop or cause further issues for the patient. This occurs in some 20% of cases of diagnostic error.

Wrong Diagnosis – An incorrect diagnosis is made. This can be absolutely devastating to a patient whose condition can be actively worsened by incorrect treatment. This occurs in some 10% of cases of diagnostic error.

As misdiagnosis leads to further problems at every stage of treatment, it is often the ultimate cause for the results of serious cases of medical negligence and malpractice. Between 25% and 30% of medical errors tied to patient death were due to misdiagnosis. Around 30% of all malpractice claims are related to misdiagnosis, and misdiagnosis is three times as likely as medication errors to lead to serious disability.

Tackling The Issues

The main problem with misdiagnosis is cognitive error and cognitive bias on the part of the physician. In other words, this is not a problem that can be completely solved by a better health system, but a problem for which the blame and responsibility belongs to one particular health professional.

Don’t be afraid to take healthcare professionals to task for failing in their duty of care. It’s the law for a reason, and failing to tackle the individuals amounts to a failure to tackle the issues.



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