Advances in medical technology are sometimes a double-edged sword. A prime example? Medical scans that use radiation to peer into human bodies.
X-rays aren’t the only culprit. In fact, far greater doses of radiation are involved in CT scans, PET scans, fluoroscopy and nuclear medicine studies (though these doses are still considered low when compared to high levels of exposure from events such as Hiroshima/Nagasaki and Chernobyl.) This ionizing radiation damages human DNA and disrupts normal cell functioning.
The Plain Dealer launches investigation into conditions at Ohio nursing homes
On March 19, John Caniglia and Jo Ellen Corrigan of The Plain Dealer published the initial findings of a multi-part investigation into Ohio’s nursing homes. Their report reveals a number of concerning statistics about the quality of care in facilities around the state and highlights tragic incidents of negligence and abuse. Continue reading “Are your loved ones safe in Ohio nursing homes?”
New Ohio Supreme Court ruling highlights unintended consequences of state’s cap on noneconomic damages.
On Dec. 14, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that capping noneconomic damages awarded to a teenage victim of sexual assault did not violate her constitutional rights. The victim’s $3.6 million jury verdict was reduced to just $500,000 after the cap was applied.
An analysis recently published by The BMJ claims medical errors are one of the most common causes of death in the U.S. The study estimates that medical errors are the cause of over 250,000 deaths per year, or nearly 700 each day. Based on the calculations, medical error ranks among the nation’s top three causes of death with cancer and heart disease.
“The U.S. government and private sector spend a lot of money on heart disease research and prevention. They also spend a lot of money on cancer research and prevention. It is time for the country to invest in medical quality and patient safety proportional to the mortality burden it bears,” advise the study’s authors in a letter to the CDC.
Serious injuries resulting from medical errors are another concern raised by the analysis. In this Washington Post article, Frederick van Pelt of The Chartis Group says the number of injuries could be 40 times greater than the number of deaths.
What is considered a medical error?
Medical errors are commonly the result of:
Breakdowns in communication
Medication and diagnostic errors
Lack of skill
These actions, or combinations of these actions, become medical errors when they result in the harm or death of a patient. They can occur at the individual or system level.
Although prevention of medical errors should be a public health priority, the authors of the study believe reporting limitations keep the issue from gaining the funding, research and attention necessary for change.
What’s wrong with the way medical errors are reported?
Physicians, funeral directors, medical examiners and coroners determine an individual’s cause of death using to the International Classification of Disease (ICD) code. As detailed by the study, human and system factors in medical care are not assigned an ICD code, meaning it’s likely that deaths caused by medical error are severely underreported.
How can you protect yourself from medical errors?
While many of the factors that contribute to medical errors are out of the patient’s control, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of becoming a victim.
Not all hospitals are created equal. Large, busy hospitals may be overwhelming, but inexperience at low-volume surgical centers can be deadly. Check out these tips on choosing a hospital and information about hospital rating systems.
Know your risk.
The risk of becoming the victim of a medical error varies by the type of care you are receiving. U.S. News & World Report Health discusses a few of the more common preventable medical errors, and offers advice on taking control of your health.
Were you or a loved one the victim of a medical error? Contact Elk & Elk today to find out if you may have a claim.
It’s the championship football game and your favorite team is driving down the field to score a touchdown. Your star quarterback and seasoned offensive linemen are working together like a well-oiled machine. Everyone is in perfect sync and the entire team is seemingly moving as one. Your team can’t be stopped.
But wait! What’s this? A time out is called and in come a slew of substitutions. Your veteran quarterback and linemen are replaced by a rookie and four other practice squad players, who are being asked to play positions they have never played before.
For the rest of the game, lack of experience, unfamiliarity with each other and poor communication between the players lead to sacks, turnovers and a loss for your team.
Would the fans ever tolerate a change in personnel like this during the middle of an important game? No way!
But this is exactly the type of substitution that happens at Ohio’s teaching hospitals every summer and it puts patients at risk.
The most dangerous month for surgery
Every July, at teaching hospitals like The Cleveland Clinic, Ohio State University Hospital and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, there is a change of health care providers that threatens the safety of the patients at these facilities.
This is when the most experienced residents graduate and leave the hospital. These graduating residents have spent the past three to six years training under the guidance of more experienced doctors and the patients at these teaching hospitals served as their case studies.
However, these experienced residents are replaced by brand new doctors who just graduated from medical school. To compound the problem, the remaining residents who have been at the hospital for a year or two are now being asked to assume new and unfamiliar roles. Consequently, this can be a very dangerous time for patients at these teaching hospitals.
This is such a dangerous time of year for patients that studies show the rate of patient deaths and complications from medical procedures increases between 8% and 34% during the month of July.
Dr. John Young of the University of California, San Francisco, reported these findings in a study he published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Every year this “July effect” – as the hospitals sometimes refer to it – affects about 100,000 doctors in teaching hospitals around the country. According to Dr. Young, no other industry undergoes such a dramatic change in personnel on such a regular basis.
Steps for a safer medical operation
So what can you do to protect yourself and your family members? Here are three tips from an experienced Ohio medical malpractice attorney:
1. Ask your doctor if he or she will be performing your surgery at a teaching hospital where doctors in training may be involved in your care. Some hospitals are not teaching hospitals or your procedure might be performed at a surgery center that does not use residents. If that is the case, then you likely won’t be affected by this problem.
2. If your surgery is elective and it is safe for you to put it off, request that your surgery be scheduled during the first six months of the year. At that time, the doctors being trained at a teaching hospital will be more experienced and familiar with the hospital’s policies, procedures and nursing staff, and there will be less of a chance for a mistake to be made.
3. If you have to have your surgery during the summer months because it can’t wait, let it be known that you want the most experienced doctor to perform your surgery and to be very involved in your care. Ohio’s teaching hospitals are important to train the doctors of the future, but your health and well-being should not suffer because you are being used as the guinea pig for a brand new doctor.
Craig McLaughlin represents people who have been seriously injured or killed as a result of nursing home neglect, motor vehicle crashes, defective products, workplace accidents and medical negligence. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell, AVVO and is a life member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Million Dollar Advocates Forum.
Not all hospitals are the same. In fact, one recent study showed patients who undergo common surgeries are safer at busy hospitals that perform the procedures regularly.
Hospital surgical volume matters
An article published in U.S. News and World report has shed the light on a little-known surgical risk: inexperience. Extrapolating data from Medicare statistics, the study revealed that hospitals performing only a small number of common surgical procedures place patients at a far greater risk than high-volume hospitals.
How big of a problem is it? “You can save your life by picking the right place,” says Leah Binder, director of the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization that measures hospital safety and performance.
Dr. John Birkmeyer, Professor of Surgery at Dartmouth–Hitchcock Medical Center has estimated that as many as 11,000 deaths could have been prevented nationally if patients who went low-volume hospitals opted to for the highest volume hospitals instead. For example, at one low-volume Colorado hospital, patients were three times more likely to die during hip replacement surgery and 24 times more likely to die during a knee replacement.
Increased risks with low-volume hospitals
According to the study, hip replacement patients who had their surgery in the lowest-volume hospitals were about 50 percent more likely to die than patients treated at surgical centers in the top 20 percent. Knee replacement patients took a larger gamble using low-volume hospitals, with a nearly 70 percent higher risk of death. Patients with congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease fared somewhat better; however, they still had a 20 percent increased risk of dying.
While these numbers are dramatic, it’s important to remember that volume is only one indicator patients should consider when selecting a healthcare facility. In fact, some low-volume hospitals provide excellent care. Conversely, some high-volume centers may perform unnecessary surgeries.
Choosing a hospital
One of the best ways to make a decision is to ask questions. Here are a few examples:
What procedures do you recommend for my case, and why?
Do I need this surgery? What other options are there?
How many times have you performed this procedure in the past year?
What is your complication rate?
How do you follow a patient post-surgery?
What will my follow-up care look like?
Tell me about your medical team – nurses, physical therapists, and others who can help guide me pre and post-surgery.
There are also rating systems available online, including U.S. News Best Hospitals and Hospital Safety Score. So how do you know which hospital or surgeon is right for you? There is no magic formula, but most experts agree patients should take the time to educate themselves about the doctors and medical facilities they choose.
“Risks Are High at Low-Volume Hospitals” by Steve Sternberg and Geoff Dougherty, U.S. News & World Report, May 18, 2015.
“Hospitals Move to Limit Low-Volume Surgeries” by Steve Sternberg, U.S. News & World Report, May 19, 2015.
In the field of personal injury law, it is essential for attorneys and other legal professionals to possess a basic understanding of the human anatomy, types of injuries and common treatment options. An upcoming National Business Institute live seminar featuring presentations from three Elk & Elk attorneys will cover these topics.
NBI’s “Anatomy and Physiology 101 for Attorneys” will take place on Thursday, June 25, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Hilton Garden Inn Cleveland Downtown. The seminar has been approved by the Ohio Supreme Court Commission on Continuing Legal Education for 6.0 CLE credit hours, and registration is $349 (includes book).
The course is designed for legal professionals who handle cases related to personal injuries, insurance, workers’ compensation and/or disability, and will offer helpful insight into the medical aspects of common cases.
Attorneys Matthew J. Carty, Michael L. Eisner and R. Craig McLaughlin of Elk & Elk will present the following topics: