George A. Sprecace M.D., J.D., F.A.C.P. and Allergy Associates of New London, P.C.
www.asthma-drsprecace.com


MEDICAL ERRORS

Two recent published reports have highlighted the problems of physician errors, hospital errors, and pharmacy errors.  This is necessary information;  but it fuels the  concerns  of a  patient  already anxious  about  taking over more coutrol of his or her health care while becoming   more aware of his limitations  regarding information and experience with the subject matter.

The following are some insights and can-do suggestions that may help:

1) First of all, some sense of proportion would help to deal with the inevitable “hype”.  The incidence of  “mal-occurrence” in hospitals, including both “acts of God” and  malpractice,  is probably around 10% of hospitalizations.  Of that,  approximately 1%  is attributable to medical mal-practice.  (Please see the section on “Medical Mal-practice” found under “Health Law”).  The incidence of pharmacy errors is variably estimated at 3-5%.

2) Hospital errors are generally due to: patient mis-identification; failure of staff oversight/monitoring; and medication errors, including problems with allergies. Patient mis-identification has been fairly well dealt with by means of newer hospital procedures, especially wrist-bands.  Your best staff monitor should be your physician, the “captain of the ship” even  in the midst of today’s informal - and sometimes “loosy-goosy” hospital environment.  Where you are in a teaching hospital surrounded by ten different persons in white coats, latch onto  the medical student or intern, and let him or her know that you are specifically depending on him  as your protector and source of information.  It will work, where nothing else does.  Medication errors would be vastly reduced  if physicians and nurses were required to Print the medication name and dosage  in all instances.  Ask your doctor to do this - insist on it if necessary.   And carry a list of your Allergies at all times.

3) Pharmacy errors have been traced to: a)  increased  prescription volume being handled by ever smaller staffs, pressured by society’s foolish demand for “more, for less”.  What you get more of is...Errors; b) increased reliance on technicians and assisants.  It takes a long time to become a Professional  - accept no substitute!  c) inadequate Federal and especially State regulatory oversight over pharmacy errors and incompetent pharmacists;  talk to your legislators.  So,  find  a pharmacy and pharmacist that do not appear harassed.  Know your medicines and check each  prescription with your doctor and pharmacist.  And see that your physician  Prints  the name and dosage of each medicine on the Rx blank.  Remember:

For your health care...choose, don’t settle.

GS


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