Ohio bill threatens to give hospitals power to designate medical records

medical recordsWhether you’re switching to a new doctor or concerned about the care you or a loved one received, complete and accurate medical records play a crucial role in the health care process.

A new definition of these files, proposed by House Bill 172, threatens to give hospitals the power to decide what is, or is not, considered a medical record when a patient’s information is requested. The move could limit patients’ access to their own medical records and present new challenges in legal battles to hold medical providers accountable for negligence and malpractice. Continue reading “Ohio bill threatens to give hospitals power to designate medical records”

Avoid having surgery during the summer: What Ohio hospitals aren’t telling you

by R. Craig McLaughlin

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.

A medical team performing an operation
Do you know which month is most dangerous for surgery?

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.

Is your hospital safe?

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

A medical team performing an operationAn 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:

  1. What procedures do you recommend for my case, and why?
  2. Do I need this surgery? What other options are there?
  3. How many times have you performed this procedure in the past year?
  4. What is your complication rate?
  5. How do you follow a patient post-surgery?
  6. What will my follow-up care look like?
  7. 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.

 

Sources:

“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.

Medical Apps for Injury Victims

Forgetting or choosing not to take your medicine is never a good idea, but for injured clients, it’s imperative to follow their medical provider’s care plan. In both personal injury and medical malpractice claims, the validity of an injury may come into doubt if you don’t follow up with your doctor and adhere to all prescribed treatments. During a trial, jurors will question the motives of someone who stopped medical treatment and may assume they do not deserve full compensation for their injuries.

Medication Reminders

Medical apps can help you track your recovery after an injury.Anyone who has multiple prescriptions knows it can be difficult to remember to take medications. The following apps can help make medication compliance easier.

MediSafe helps you manage and take your medication on time and lets you know when it’s time for refills, provides doctor appointment reminders, and provides a place to store doctor phone numbers and addresses. Users also have the option to allow their family, friends and caregivers to help with compliance by being alerted as to whether or not you medication was taken.

MedCoach makes it easy for users to follow their medication and vitamin schedule as prescribed by a doctor. It delivers friendly reminder messages to your phone. The app can even connect you to your pharmacy for prescription refills.

Track Medical Records

Medical expenses are by far the most important component of any personal injury case. Whether your case is settled out of court or decided by a jury, you must have complete medical records to back up your claim.

My Medical™ for iOS is a comprehensive record-keeping app for your personal medical information. My Medical can keep track of medications, surgeries, hospitalizations, tests, physicians, allergies, immunizations, assistive devices and much more. It meets the industry standard Continuity of Care Record format, which makes it easy to transfer records from one system to another. For extra security, data is stored directly to your device and not on a remote server.

Healthspek for iPad allows you to easily track, collect and safely share your personal and family health records, manage medications and store legal documents. Account holders can manage medications, medical charts and images, track vitals, access care, and record physician, insurance and emergency contacts, among other features. With the patient’s permission, doctors can access records through Healthspek’s www.chartnow.com–providing convenience for both you and your physician.

Be cautious of apps that make bold claims

Medical apps abound for consumers looking to use their mobile devices to improve their health and users can easily find apps that promise to promote mental health, aid sleep, cause weight loss, control food allergies, aid self-diagnosis, manage pain, and help in every other conceivable medical condition. However, the FDA regulates consumer health apps at its own discretion, depending on the possible risks to users.

“If an app claims to treat, diagnose or prevent a disease or a health condition, it needs to have serious evidence to back up those claims,” said Mary K. Engle, associate director of the F.T.C.’s division of advertising practices. “We hope marketers will take heed of that and do their homework before they get into the marketplace.”

 


 Elk & Elk Co., Ltd. does not endorse or recommend any commercial products, processes, or services. This information is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material provided on this Site is provided for information purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider.

Stryker Agrees to $1.4 Billion Hip Implant Settlement

iStock_000009949501SmallStryker has agreed to compensate thousands of individuals affected by recalled hip implants—setting aside $1.4 billion to cover costs of the settlement. The affected implants are the ABG II Modular Hip System and the Rejuvenate Modular Hip System.

Bloomberg news reports the medical device manufacturer “will pay a base amount of $300,000 per case to patients who had the devices surgically removed.” Stryker currently faces more than 4,000 lawsuits, which have been consolidated in New Jersey Multicounty and Federal Multidistrict litigations.

The base award may be adjusted, depending on certain factors. For example, payments will be increased for extraordinary medical injuries, such as multiple surgeries (re-revisions) or infections and other medical complications suffered as a result of revision surgery.

The deadline for eligible patients to submit their claim for payment under the settlement is March 2, 2015. The first payments under the settlement program are expected to begin in the Summer of 2015 with enhanced payments being projected for disbursement at the end of 2015 and early 2016.

Eligibility Requirements for the Hip Implant Settlement Fund

According to a settlement information website, “The Settlement Program is available to eligible United States patients who had revision surgery for reasons related to the voluntary recall of the modular-neck hip stems prior to November 3, 2014.”

To be eligible for the Settlement Program, you must:

  1. Be a U.S. citizen or legal resident of the United States;
  2. Have had an ABG II Modular and/or Rejuvenate Modular hip implanted in the United States or at any United States Military Hospital;
  3. Have undergone a surgery to remove the implanted modular hip stem for reasons related to the recall at least 181 days after implantation and prior to November 3, 2014, in the United States (or at any United States Military Hospital);
  4. The surgery to remove the ABG II Modular or Rejuvenate Modular hip involved one or more of the following: (a) an elevated cobalt level; (b) an abnormal diagnostic scan related to the reasons underlying the voluntary recall; or (c) confirmation of ALTR, ALVAL or tissue damage related to the reasons underlying the voluntary recall.
  5. Register your claim with the Claims Processor; and Enroll in the Settlement Program.

The Settlement Program is also available to eligible patients who are unable to undergo a necessary revision surgery as indicated by their surgeon prior to November 3, 2014, because they have been deemed physically unable to have the procedure by their surgeon.

Stryker Modular Hip Systems linked to serious complications

Stryker recalled the products in 2012, after patients began complaining of pain and swelling. Other complications included:

  • Fretting (wear) and/or corrosion, which can lead to osteolysis (bone dissolution)
  • Joint loosening/dislocation
  • Multi-organ injuries from the release of heavy metals into the body
  • Tissue inflammation
  • Necrosis (soft tissue death)
  • Hypersensitivity/allergic response
  • Broken devices
  • General pain and discomfort

Although the settlement agreement will help resolve many lawsuits, other claims remain active. If you have questions about Stryker modular hip implants or other medical devices, contact an experienced products liability attorney today.

 

Source:

Voreacos, David, and Jef Feeley. “Stryker to Pay More Than $1 Billion for Recalled Devices.” Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg, 4 Nov. 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

Is Your Doctor Giving You Fake Drugs?

It seems that even doctors can fall prey to the same counterfeit drug scams that have plagued consumers. We received an email today, which announced the FDA has launched a new website, warning health care professionals about a growing trend: Fake drug distributors.

“There is a growing network of rogue wholesale drug distributors selling potentially unsafe drugs in the U.S. market,” read the email. The new website,“Know Your Source,” advises healthcare professionals to only purchase  prescription drugs from licensed wholesale distributors.

Too little, too late?

FDA: Know your sourceWhile we applaud the efforts of the FDA to combat this problem – fake drugs undoubtedly pose a serious risk to patients – the problem is anything but new. In a letter dated December 19, 2012, the FDA notified medical practices they may have received unapproved medications. According to the FDA, “These medications may be counterfeit, contaminated, improperly stored and transported, ineffective, and/or unsafe.”

In fact, consumers have been warned about counterfeit drugs for years, with “Canadian” distributors at the forefront of the problem. So, how is it that doctors are unaware of these scams—many of which appear to be rather obvious. For example, one flyer on the website warns doctors to “Beware of Offers Too Good to be True” and that, “Aggressive marketing tactics and deep discounts on prescription drugs may indicate that the products are stolen, counterfeit, substandard, or unapproved.”

The FDA also shared these rather common-sense signs that a drug may be fake:

  • The label is not in English.
  • The packaging looks slightly different from the FDA-approved product
  • The product names differs from the name of the FDA-approved drug
  • The dosing recommendations are unfamiliar
  • Safety information or warnings are missing
  • The dosage form or administration is different

How can we, as consumers, protect ourselves?

When a doctor administers medication in the office, you probably won’t see the packaging. A nurse may hand you a pill or give you a shot. So how can you be sure they received the medicine from a reliable distributor? ASK.

Don’t be shy about asking your doctor questions regarding your medication

  • Ask where the medication came from. While it is not a guarantee, medicines are generally safe if your doctor purchased them directly from the manufacturer or a state-licensed wholesale drug distributor.
  • Ask for a copy of the package insert, detailing the possible side effects and other important safety information.
  • Tell your doctor if you experience unusual side effects or if the medication doesn’t seem to be working. These may be signs of counterfeit medication. 

Remember, while most prescription drugs in the United States are safe, it is important to be a vocal advocate for yourself and your loved ones.

 

 

Resources:

FDA warns doctors to beware fake drug distributorsModern Healthcare /Associated Press, September 23, 2104

The Possible Dangers of Buying Medicines over the Internet” FDA.gov, January 26, 2011.

4-Year-Old Boy Dies in Failure to Diagnose Case

Personal Injury Attorney Arthur Elk recounts the tragic story of a young boy who died due to a doctor’s failure to properly diagnose a serious medical condition.

As a parent, one of the worst things that can happen is for one of your children to suffer through a serious injury or harm. It’s devastating and heartbreaking.

Dealing with a sick child can be exhausting, especially when doctors and nurses are trying to sort out what’s wrong. But what happens when the doctor fails to diagnose your child correctly and sends them home?

Such was the case for one of our clients who brought in his very sick child. The boy was lethargic and covered in a rash. The doctor assumed it was the flu and sent the child home. Unfortunately, what he missed was a very serious case of bacterial meningitis that continued to plague the boy once he went home.

Later, the father returned to the emergency room in a frantic state with his young son who had fallen unconscious. He pleaded with the staff to provide his son with medical care. Doctors eventually determined the boy had bacterial meningitis, but by that time it was too late and the child passed away. While bacterial meningitis is a very serious condition that can sometimes result in death, it is treatable if detected. The signs and symptoms were there for the doctor to see and he failed to do so. As a result, this young boy died.

Failure to diagnose cases are not as rare as one may think. We often come across cases in which a doctor or health professional failed to diagnose a condition correctly or at all whether it was a severe infection like bacterial meningitis or a case of cancer. The harm caused by many diseases can be mitigated and sometimes prevented if detected early. A patient’s outlook and prognosis are much worse when a mistake is made by their treating health professional. Unfortunately, in some cases, a doctor’s failure to diagnose can result in a needless death. As experienced attorneys, we can review all of the medical records to reveal the truth about how you or a loved one was injured due to a failure to diagnose case.

To learn more about personal injury law, I encourage you to watch the video above and to explore our educational website at www.elkandelk.com. If you have legal questions, please call us at 1-800-ELK-OHIO. I welcome your call.

Arthur M. Elk

Doctor Error in Metal-on-Metal Hip Replacements

All hip replacements carry some risks.All artificial hip replacements carry some risks, including wear of the component parts, breakage of the device itself, and risk of adverse side effects such as nerve damage or joint pain. These risks can increase if the hip replacement procedure is not performed properly. For this reason, if you feel pain or other side effects after a hip replacement procedure, you should consult with a doctor first and then a medical malpractice attorney.

In addition to the more general risks listed above, metal-on-metal hip replacements carry their own unique set of risks. In a metal-on-metal hip replacement, the metal component parts will slide against one another when a person walks or runs. This can cause metal to be released into the bloodstream. Corrosion is another risk that is associated with metal-on-metal hip replacements, and it can also cause metal ions to be released into the bloodstream.

Although there is no way to entirely prevent the release of metal ions into the bloodstream, there are steps that surgeons and doctors can take to lessen the risk. A medical malpractice attorney can help you figure out whether or not your doctor took the appropriate precautions. Ideally, doctors should take steps to optimize the way the metal ball and socket rub against one another.

If you believe that your doctor did not take such steps, and if blood tests show an increased amount of metal in your bloodstream, you should seek the assistance of a medical malpractice attorney. That attorney will be able to help you determine whether or not the health care providers who performed your hip replacement procedure are liable for any injuries or ill health caused by the procedure.

 

Google Glass in the Operating Room: Help or Hindrance?

The first time I saw the Google Glass, I was positively captivated. The possibilities for this wearable computer with an optical display and camera seemed endless.

As technology has become exceedingly pervasive, it’s no surprise that the health care industry has been keen to adopt new innovations. From beeping pulse oximeters to robots performing surgery, it seems computers are everywhere – even worn by surgeons in the operating room.

At first blush, wearing computerized glasses with a heads up display and recording capabilities seems like a great idea. The device can provide surgeons with instantaneous, hands-free access to a patient’s medical records, vital signs, and other important information while in the operating room. The doctor can also transmit a live-stream video of the surgical procedure to remote locations, allowing for real-time consultations with specialists or providing valuable educational experience for medical students.

Google Glass use in the operating room raises concerns.
Google Glass use in the operating room raises concerns. (Photo courtesy of Antonio Zugaldia.)

Distracted Doctoring

While Google Glass may offer an abundance of opportunities for health care providers, since it is connected to the internet, there are serious concerns over potential abuses.

“Being able to see your laparoscopic images when you’re operating face to face instead of looking across the room at a projection screen is just mind-bogglingly fantastic,” said Dr. Peter J Papadakos, anesthesiologist and Director of Critical Care at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “But the downside is you don’t want that same surgeon interacting with social media while he’s operating.”

We all know that texting while driving is dangerous because our attention is diverted from the task at hand. Now imagine your surgeon, anesthesiologist, or a nurse distracted by their smart phone or tablet during a surgical procedure. Think it doesn’t happen? Think again. A 2011 article published in the New York Times stated that examples of distracted doctoring “include a neurosurgeon making personal calls during an operation, a nurse checking airfares during surgery and a poll showing that half of technicians running bypass machines had admitted texting during a procedure.”

To combat this problem, many hospitals and other care facilities have established (or are in the process of creating) rules regarding the use of personal electronic devices by health care providers. Deviation from these regulations during critical care, which results in harm to a patient, may be considered medical malpractice.

Evidence

Although some critics advocate banning such devices from the operating room, there may be an upside. In the unfortunate event of a medical mistake, the video capabilities of Google Glass may provide critical evidence at trial. Much like the dash cam of a police officer, the visual evidence collected by the device during surgery, combined with expert testimony, can help make a compelling case.

If you have questions about injuries in a medical setting due to a distracted health care professional, contact an experience medical malpractice attorney.

Sources

Google Glass Enters the Operating Room” by Anahad O’Connor, New York Times, June 1, 2014.

As Doctors Use More Devices, Potential for Distraction Grows” by Matt Richtell, New York Times, December 14, 2011.

Common Anesthesia Errors that Lead to Medical Malpractice

anesthesiologist in ORFor most patients, a procedure requiring anesthesia goes according to plan.  Unfortunately,when emergency rooms, operating tables or surgical centers get busy, mistakes can happen.  As a result, anesthesia errors happen more often than most people think they do.  If you believe that a loved one has suffered injury or death due to an anesthesia error, it’s best to contact a medical malpractice attorney immediately to see if you have a viable claim for a lawsuit.

Anesthesia errors often happen because anesthesiologists and other medical professionals are forced to multitask during surgery. There are many different things happening at once, which can lead to distracted doctors and nurses. In turn, this can lead to mistakes, such as:

  • Administering too much or too little anesthetic medication
  • Waiting too long before administering anesthesia
  • Giving the wrong anesthesia drug
  • Interactions with prescription drugs
  • Bad reactions for patients with allergies
  • Forgetting to warn a patient that he should eat or drink prior to surgery
  • Failure to administer oxygen during surgery or properly monitor the patient
  • Defective medical devices and equipment used to administer anesthesia

Too small of a dose may cause the patient to remain partially or fully conscious during the procedure, meaning that he or she could experience extreme pain as surgeons are operating. Improper administration can cause other serious side effects, including:

  • Asphyxiation (loss of oxygen)
  • Aspiration of gastric contents (entry of stomach contents into the respiratory system)
  • Anaphylaxis (serious allergic reaction)
  • Tracheal (windpipe) damage
  • Birth defects
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Cardiac dysrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Myocardial infarction (minor heart attack)
  • Major heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Coma
  • Severe brain damage
  • Death

A medical malpractice attorney can help you determine if a loved one’s death or injury while on the operating table was caused by an error in the dosage or nitroglycerin concentration of the anesthesia that was administered prior to the procedure. If this is the case, your medical malpractice attorney can help you attempt to recover monetary compensation for the injuries or death caused by the anesthesiologist’s negligence.