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Providence Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Linking errors to provider specialties

Patients in Providence County place a great deal of trust in the doctors that treat their various ailments and injuries. Typically, they are willing to invest such trust due to a clinician's educational background combined with his or her experience. Of course, no two patients are alike, and neither are the ailments they may be suffering from. As a person's medical issues become more complex, specialty providers are often required in order to render the right treatment. This may lead some to question if medical error rates are linked to provider specialties.

One way to determine this may be to review the number of medical malpractice claims filed against doctors of different specialties. Information shared by the New England Journal of Medicine shows the five most common provider specialties listed in medical malpractice claims to be:

  •          Neurosurgery
  •          Thoracic-cardiovascular surgery
  •          General surgery
  •          Orthopedic surgery
  •          Plastic surgery

Do people really wake up during surgery?

Like many people in Providence County, you have likely heard stories of patients waking up during their surgeries and dismissed them as being just that: stories. Anesthetic agents make it possible for doctors and surgeons to perform many of the life-saving treatments they offer. However, as outlandish as it may seem, it is possible for you to regain a level of consciousness during surgery (the clinical term for such an incident is referred to as “anesthesia awareness”).

Research data shared by the National Institutes of Health shows anesthesia awareness to occur in one to two of every 1000 surgical cases. The severity of cases may vary, although most reports describe patients only recovering a small degree of consciousness. In such a state, you may feel what is being done to you, yet not be fully aware of everything going on around you. Cases of near full awareness during surgery are said to be extremely rare.

Baby suffers brain damage due to doctor’s failure to act

Even though advances in field of obstetrics have helped to drastically improve the outcomes of deliveries in Providence County, it should still be remembered that giving birth is a complex process, during which any number of complications may occur. The complexity of childbirth often requires doctors to be at their absolute best, ready to make decisions at a moment’s notice that could end up drastically affecting the life of a baby as well as his or her family. One can only imagine the problems that may arise if a delivering mother does not have her doctor’s full and undivided attention during this process.

A case in Florida illustrates just what may happen in such a scenario. A mother was recently awarded a settlement in excess of $33 million after a judge determined that negligence on the part of the on-call doctor at the facility where she delivered her son resulted in the boy suffering brain damage. Experts who testified during the trial stated that the doctor failed to notice that the baby’s fetal heart rate indicated serious distress, which may have been caused by the doctor’s decision to administer contraction-inducing drugs for more than an hour. After three failed attempts to deliver the boy using a vacuum extractor, the doctor still did not initiate an emergency C-section which could have help to avoid any injuries. The doctor actually wasn’t even in the room when the boy was delivered. He was away on one of the many breaks he took during the delivery, one of which he used to field a call from his stockbroker.

Determining the reasons behind short visit times

Your primary care doctor in Providence County may take the time to ask questions about your family, your job, and other personal details before giving you a thorough evaluation. Yet what if you are unable to see your regular physician, or you do not have one at all? Many of those who come to see us here at DeLuca and Weizenbaum LTD describe scenarios where they felt as though rushed visits by doctors ended up with them being misdiagnosed. If you feel as though you did not receive enough attention from a physician during a visit, you may justly want to know why.

Information shared by Business Insider shows that most patients only spend between 13-16 minutes with a doctor during each visit. In that time, a doctor is expected to do a detailed assessment, including an evaluation of your body systems along with a review of your medical history. He or she must also then dedicate the time needed to ensure accurate medical decision-making. Granted, not all of these tasks need to be completely done in your presence, yet you’d expect to see your attending doctor long enough to feel as though you are involved in them (which you should be).

Reviewing the reasons for the under medication of cancer patients

The abuse of pain medication by people in Providence County and throughout the rest of the U.S. has been well-documented. Oftentimes, cases of abuse begin by one having a legitimate need for such medication, yet ultimately becoming addicted to it. Given the potential for addiction, doctors must be judicious in prescribing pain medication. Yet can that apprehensive attitude result in patients being under medicated?

Information shared by the National Institute of Health shows that as many as 76.2 million Americans suffer from some form of chronic pain. Many find that to be a side effect of other conditions or even treatments, such as cancer care. In fact, the NIH lists pain as being a potential barrier to cancer treatment given that many patients may be unwilling to endure the suffering their care causes.

Are documentation errors potentially dangerous?

Your concerns about your medical treatment likely begin and end with your face-to-face interactions with your provider. He or she diagnoses you, treats you, gives you advice and then sends you on your way. Yet there is a whole other element to your medical care that you do not see yet is just as vital to your safety. As many in Providence County and throughout the rest of the U.S. are discovering, documentation errors are becoming a new problem facing both patients and providers today.

Before, in between and after consulting with you, doctors, nurses and other clinicians make notes in your medical record. Not only are those notes used to help determine your course of treatment during that single visit, but doctors will also rely on them in the future when administering care. Any errors could result in a vital aspect of your medical history being missed, any allergies you suffer from not being discovered, or you being given the wrong blood type.

Malpractice lawsuit against medical center ends in mistrial

Those in Providence County who file medical malpractice lawsuits against doctors, hospitals and/or other parties may believe that settlements in their cases are all but guaranteed. Perhaps that comes from an assumption that all such action is successful, because a majority of the news stories covering such cases detail successful outcomes for the plaintiffs. However, it should be remembered that such cases are typically argued in front of juries, and as is the case in a jury trial, consenting opinions amongst those hearing the case could result in a mistrial.

Such is what occurred at the end of a trial recently argued in Florida. The husband of a woman currently in a persistent vegetative state in a New York care center sued the medical center in Florida where she was seen following a brain hemorrhage. The woman had originally been a patient at another medical center, but was later transferred to the facility named in the lawsuit after the other determined it did not have the resources to care for her. The husband claims that the providers at the defendant facility did not have the necessary equipment either, yet that he was never told that. Representatives from the medical center claim, however, that the man was told prior to his wife being operated on that her chances of survival were only 50 percent, and the odds that she could end up in the state she is currently in were even higher.

How common are newborn falls in hospitals?

The thought of being dropped as a baby is typically reserved as fodder for jokes. Most in Providence County may understand how delicate newborns are. If that knowledge is held by the general public, then you would certainly think it resonates with healthcare providers. However, as difficult as it may be to believe, dropping babies is still a problem that occurs in hospitals today. In fact, information shared by the National Institutes of Health estimates that between 600 to 1,600 such accidents occur annually.

The clinical term used to define dropped baby cases is “newborn falls.” Researchers believe that it is one of the most underreported problems that occurs in hospitals. Many reported cases involve new mothers dropping their babies after having fallen asleep while nursing or family members having a baby slip out of their arms. If this has happened to you, you may feel embarrassed or scared and thus be weary of telling your providers what happened.

Highlighting the difficulty in tracking diagnostic error rates

Working professionals in Providence County likely face some form of evaluation system in their jobs, particularly in how they identify errors in their workflow. Most may assume that if their work is being scrutinized, so too is that of other professionals. For doctors, identifying errors is most applicable to diagnosing patients. Thus, many may think that doctors are evaluated based upon their diagnostic accuracy. Yet as shocking as it may seem, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a lack of standardized measurement strategies makes it difficult for researchers to include diagnostic accuracy among the quality measurements used to evaluate doctor performance.

The National Academy of Medicine estimates that nearly everyone will experience a diagnostic error at some point. At the same, however, it recognizes that tracking the rate at which such errors occur is currently not a major focus of research. One of the major barriers it lists to forming a standardized method of measuring the occurrence rate of diagnostic errors is the current methods by which they are reported. These include:

  •          Medical records
  •          Postmortem exams
  •          Diagnostic testing (including medical imaging)
  •          Surveys of patients and clinicians
  •          Medical malpractice and health insurance claims

Reviewing the pros and cons of implantable drug delivery systems

If you are required to take a medication to combat a chronic condition, then you may know full well the issues that can arise from persistent prescription drug use. Many of the Providence County residents that we here at DeLuca and Weizenbaum LTD have worked with in the past have reported problems like forgetting to take their medications on a regular basis or suffering side effects such as tissue damage from repeated injections. Some might say that implantable drug delivery systems may be the answer to the challenges you may face in adhering to your medication schedule. However, these devices are not without their flaws.

Implantable drug delivery systems are devices put inside your body that are programmed to administer pre-determined amounts of medication at routine intervals. These devices are resupplied with medication through an access port, allowing for continuous use. IDDS devices may be used to treat any number of ailments, from diabetes and Parkinson’s disease to certain forms of cancer.

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