Incidence of Medical Errors Rising

Recently, the Canadian Medical Association held its 143rd annual meeting in Ontario, Canada. At the meeting, Colorado family physician Dr. John Findley reported his findings about the rising incidence of medical errors in the United States.

According to Findley, medical errors have increased because of the breakdown in doctor-patient relationships and medical developments, including the emergence of more than 4,000 drugs and 6,000 diagnoses, all leading to the "mechanization" of medicine.

Statistics cited by Findley indicate that almost 20 percent of the one million heart failure patients in U.S. hospitals were readmitted within one month of their release. An additional 23 percent also suffered post-discharge adverse events.

As more and more diagnoses, procedures, treatments and tests evolve in the practice of medicine, doctors tend to rely more on contemporary medical technology and be less collaborative with their patients and fellow doctors. Findley urged physicians to be "more empathetic" with their patients and consult with their peers on more complex cases, instead of individually directing care.

Defensive Medicine

Findley also cites the practice of using defensive medicine as a reason for higher patient dissatisfaction and diagnostic errors. The Congressional Office of Technology Assessment notes that defensive medicine occurs when doctors "order tests, procedures, or visits, or avoid high-risk patients or procedures, primarily (but not necessarily or solely) to reduce their exposure to malpractice liability."

A June 2010 study by Mount Sinai School of Medicine showed that out of 2,416 doctors, 91 percent ordered more tests and procedures than necessary as a standard practice. A study conducted by Harvard University and Brigham and Women's hospital found that defensive medicine contributes to inefficiencies in the health care system, causes patient injuries and unnecessary risk exposure for physicians.

Working With an Attorney

If you have been misdiagnosed or experienced any other form of medical malpractice, it is important to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. Malpractice cases are complex and working with an attorney can help you identify mistakes made by doctors and advise you of your options.