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Working together to improve patient safety

Colorado patient advocates are watching as a New York conference on patient safety and medical errors drew attendees who wanted to learn more about the topic. The founder of the event shared the story of her baby's death after he succumbed to complications from a tonsillectomy. When he began coughing up blood, she took him to the emergency room, but they sent him back home without finding a problem. The bleeding didn't stop, but by the time the paramedics arrived, it was too late. Although the late diagnosis that claimed the life of her son happened 24 years ago, the events still seem fresh to the mother and motivated her to start a patient advocacy group.

Things have improved since the early days of HMOs. However, doctor neglect and errors still plague the industry and some experts have called the problem an epidemic. For example, about 1.5 million patients annually suffer due to medication errors. In addition, related costs total billions of dollars each year and about 98,000 yearly fatalities. Thousands of adverse events occur every day, according to one medical director. He admitted that too many patients die or are injured from medical mistakes.

The medical director spoke at the conference about addressing the current culture in the medical field. He believes that hospitals, doctors and other providers focus on shifting the blame for errors instead of preventing mistakes. He went on to note that about one in five medical malpractice claims are due to failure to diagnose, often in cases where a doctor could have cooperated with another provider.

Medical mistakes can devastate the lives of patients and their families. A medical malpractice attorney might be able to obtain compensation for the victim of a negligent act or omission by a health care provider.

Source: Long Island Business News, "Docs: Patients must partner in preventing errors", Claude Solnik, April 04, 2014

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