There may be times when you will need to seek medical treatment or have surgery. Both always carry risks. In fact, getting medical treatment is more than just a plain old Murphy’s Law. It has been estimated that medical errors result in approximately 210,000 deaths per year. What’s worse is that doctors let patients know when something goes wrong only about 30 percent of the time.
Here are a few facts that will be handy for you to know before seeking treatment at a hospital.
1. The most common medical error is bedsores. This usually happens with patients who are bedridden 24/7 and don’t move very much. If left untreated, bedsores are very painful and can be fatal.
Many patients across the globe also develop other healthcare-related infections. It is estimated that approximately 3.2 patients across the European Union develop such infections. Approximately 37,000 succumb to them. Unfortunately, not all countries emphasize on practicing proper hygiene.
Due to the inflation and budget cuts, many people in the U.S. work even while they’re sick. Unfortunately, medical staff is no exception. This is estimated to be causing a lot of hospital-related infections in patients.
2. Medication switch-outs or unsafe medications is another leading hospital error. This is usually not intentional. It is usually a result of staff shortages, unsafe conditions, work interruptions, and weak medication systems. All of the above affects the prescription, transcription and monitoring practices. It is known to result in significant harm such as poisoning, permanent disability, and even death. It has been estimated that this alone costs $42 billion globally. That’s not including other healthcare costs and loss of wages.
3. Objects left in the patient’s body after surgery is rare but is known to happen. This is usually due to oversights. Make sure you pick a surgeon who is contentious, reputable, and has a good bedside manner. Unfortunately, you don’t get much of a say in that in an emergency. The best thing you can do there is to know the reputations of your local hospitals ahead of time and pick accordingly. Pick one that specializes in your surgery if you can.
4. Diagnostic errors are very common. In the U.S., this occurs with five percent of adult patients. It also results in a 10 percent patient fatality. Malaysia, on the contrary, has just over three percent of diagnostic errors. Data from moderate income and developing countries is very limited. However, the rate is estimated to be much higher in such countries.
5. Administrative errors are very common. It is estimated that they make up about half of all medication errors. Most of them occur in medication administration or are due to flaws in the system. These are estimated to occur anywhere between five and 80 out of 100,000 cases.
6. Falls in a hospital are also far more common than you might think. It is estimated that at least a third of them are preventable. Falls can result in internal bleeding and broken bones. They can also result in an extended hospital stay, which also piles on your medical costs. So if you or your loved one is at a high fall risk, make sure that you notify the hospital staff.
7. While not a leading error, misuse of a radiation or x-ray machine has been known to result in health hazards for both patients and healthcare workers. Just over three billion x-rays are taken in the U.S. every year. Approximately ten percent are with children.
However, all is not without hope. There are ways that you can help your hospital staff to prevent the above medical errors from occurring.
-Notify your hospital staff of all medications that you’re taking and any allergies you have.
-Ask for information about your medicine in a way that you can understand. Unless you’re a doctor yourself or have a doctor’s level of knowledge, you probably don’t know your medications in the way that your doctor does. Pay particular attention to the ingredients in case you develop allergies. Talk to your pharmacist as well.
-Make sure that you and everyone on your healthcare team are all on the same page with the plan. This is what prevents many errors, such as getting your surgery in the wrong location or surgery that you don’t need. For example, having your vocal cords cut and tied when you need thyroid surgery.
-Believe it or not, doctors tend to think that patients understand more than they really do. If you don’t understand something, ask! Again, also talk to your pharmacist.
-Make sure that you have a primary doctor who will be leading your care. If your health issues are chronic, it may mean the difference between anything from another few years to several decades.
-Never hesitate to voice any concerns. Healthcare workers are not perfect and may need a wake-up call if they’re doing something less than ideal. If you have any reason to believe that anyone is being unethical in some way or if you have sustained a disability as a result of your healthcare, get a lawyer involved.
-Get a loved one to act as your power of attorney in case you can’t speak for yourself.
-Don’t hesitate to get a second opinion. Remember that you have a right to know why you need a certain treatment or test. If you do go through with a test, never assume anything before you get the results.