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Providence Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Hospital tech designed to prevent doctor error: Is it working?

Is technology really improving the medical world? A group of researchers wanted to test this hypothesis, so they used the 2014 Rhode Island Health Information Technology Survey to asses whether Electronic Health Record (EHR) technology is improving the patient/doctor experience. The EHR was originally designed to prevent doctor error, but some have raised criticisms of the technology, as a recent news story reports. 

The main concern is that the technology limits the interactions between medical professionals and patients. While it allows the interaction to be logged permanently on a record, by limiting the time spent with a patient, or the amount of eye contact and conversation with a patient, doctors may not be able to give their best attention to the medical needs of a person. In hospitals, the EHR computer is usually kept away from patients in an office; in clinic settings, the EHR computer is in the examination room and forces the physician to multitask. 

Is it an allergy or a side effect?

When you are sick or in pain, you typically go to a doctor in Providence County expecting immediate relief. When such a visit results in you being prescribed a medication, the hope is that taking it will provide such relief. Yet while a drug may alleviate symptoms related to your condition, it could also produce new (and often unpleasant) issues.

Your first thought upon experiencing such issues is that you are having an allergic reaction to the drug. Yet is that really the case, or could you simply be experiencing a side effect to its use? Understanding the difference is important, because it could be what separates having to accept a treatment outcome from being justified in leveling a liability claim.

Doctor mistakes man’s left for right testicle during surgery

Perhaps the most devastating consequence of medical and surgical errors in Providence County is the loss of confidence in healthcare providers that the people who suffer through them are left with. It may be understandable that doctors and surgeons will make an occasional error in judgment, yet most would expect them to be able to avoid blatant mistakes like wrong site surgeries. As such issues are typically attributed to a simple lack of planning and verification, one can only assume that surgeons who commit such errors can only claim carelessness as the reason for making them.

A Pennsylvania recently sought action against the surgeon who caused him to join the unenviable fraternity of those who have experienced wrong site surgeries. Instead of removing the atrophied right testicle that had been causing the man so much pain, the doctor who performed his procedure removed the left one. In his defense, the surgeon claimed that the testicle he removed was on the right side of the man’s scrotum, yet the spermatic cord attached to it led to the left side of his body. The man’s attorney refutes this claim, citing the fact that the normal structures of the man’s body would have prevented his testicles from essentially “switching sides.” While the man still experiences pain in his remaining testicle, his experience (coupled with the fact that doing so would require him to need testosterone replacement therapy) has made him hesitant to seek further treatment.

Examining the inefficiencies in provider error reporting

One common theme may often hear in cases involving medical malpractice in Providence County is that plaintiffs decide to take action in order to prevent others from having to experience what they did. Many of those that we here at DeLuca & Weizenbaum LTD share those same sentiments. Yet even still, medical errors still occur, with the same ones often being repeated in certain cases. The reoccurrence of such errors may be due to inefficiencies in providers’ own internal reporting systems.

You might assume that should a medical error have been made in the past by the same doctor that is currently treating you that education had been provided and measures put in place to ensure that you are not made subject to the same mistake. Yet that often does not happen simply because no one may ever reported the initial error in the first place. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has developed what are known as “Common Formats” that create standardized reporting protocols to help healthcare providers in reporting any type of adverse event, including:

  •          Incidents
  •          Unsafe conditions
  •          Near misses

Examining the different types of pelvises

There are many things that an expectant mother in Providence County can do to help avoid the potential of delivery complications, such as maintaining a healthy weight or taking prenatal vitamins. However, there are also certain factors beyond a mother’s control that can end up impacting their deliveries, as well. One of these is the size and shape of her pelvis.

Clinical research has shown there to be four common types of female pelvises. The website Parent24.com lists these different types (along with impact their size and shape may have on a pregnancy) below:

  •          Gynaecoid: The widest and broadest pelvis type, a gynaecoid pelvis is the least likely to cause trauma to an average-size baby.
  •          Android: An android pelvis has a heart-shaped brim, thus making it much more narrow in the area of the sub-pubic arch. This can contribute to longer labors, forcing mothers to move around more often to assist with a baby’s descent.
  •          Anthropoid: With a wide outlet yet narrow sections in other areas of the pelvic cavity, an anthropoid pelvis type can slow delivery if a baby does not engage in an anterior position.
  •          Platypelloid: The kidney-shaped brim of a platypelloid pelvis type makes it somewhat more difficult for a baby to descend into the mother’s pelvis, yet easier to complete delivery once he or she is in due to its roomy outlet.

When should you seek a second opinion?

Being misdiagnosed can really put you in a dangerous position, as your diagnosis affects the care you receive (or recommended lack thereof). You no doubt want to trust your doctor in Providence County, yet with so much on the line, can you afford not to consider seeking a second opinion?

Study shared by CBS News shows that 12 million American adults are misdiagnosed when seeking outpatient care each year. It is estimated that half of those cases could produce significant harm. Yet simply because misdiagnosis cases appear to be this common does not mean that your doctor is wrong. When, however, should you consider whether he or she might be?

Errors from separate surgeries cited in lawsuit

Whenever a patient seeks surgical treatment at any of the hospitals or medical centers in Providence County, the potential exists for there to be complications. Such issues may arise due to errors made during the performance of a procedure itself, or a failure to render adequate care during the post-operative period. While the mechanisms of these complications may differ (e.g. intraoperative issues, surgical site infections), the results that they produce are often the same: severe impairments that can dramatically alter one's standard of living.

An Iowa woman is currently having to deal with such impairments after experiencing complications from two different surgeries.  She continues to be plagued by headaches along with physical and cognitive impairments after having to go through intense IV treatments and therapies after suffering a stroke during surgery in early 2016. That procedure was actually done in follow-up to a previous one undertaken to remove a benign tumor from the lining of her brain as well as a portion of her skull. She subsequently contacted the doctor complaining of chronic headaches as well as pain at her incision site. It was later discovered the site had become infected. Her doctor's delay in removing the infected titanium mesh put in to replace the removed portion of her skull resulted in her now needing continued antibiotic treatment. When she finally did undergo surgery to remove the mesh, the severe blood loss that followed the removal of a portion that had become stuck to her skull membrane caused her stroke.

Assigning vicarious liability to prescribing physicians

Have you ever considered if the use of medication by a complete stranger could somehow affect you, as well? Many of those in Providence County that we here at DeLuca and Weizenbaum have worked with in the past may tell you yes based off their own personal experiences. If you were ever to encounter such a scenario, could the prescribing doctor be held liable, just as he or she would be in a case involving a medication error that you experience?

Say that you are involved in a car accident which was later determined to be the fault of another driver who was drowsy following the use of a medication. Such a scenario was described in an analysis shared by the National Institutes of Health. It claims that in order to hold a prescribing doctor liable in such a scenario, “The Four Ds” of malpractice must be proven. These are:

  •          The doctor must have a duty of care to the person who caused the accident.
  •          The doctor was derelict in fulfilling his or her duty to the patient.
  •          His or her dereliction was found to be directly responsible for any accident the patient was involved in.
  •          Such an accident caused damages and injuries to the patient (and to you).

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.

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