Study shows a surprising number of medical record errors

Studies show that many cases occur where medical staff misreads patients’ records and may perform the wrong treatment.

When people enter a medical facility in Miami or anywhere throughout the state, they expect to receive a certain standard level of care that is given to ailing patients. Many people place their lives in the hands of the professional medical staff who are caring for them. Despite this high level of trust, however, physicians, nurses and surgeons are human and consequently, subject to making errors. Unfortunately, these mistakes can lead to serious injuries and fatalities, all of which may have been prevented.

There are many types of medical errors that can occur, including failure to diagnose a patient, leaving a foreign object within a patient's surgical site or administering the wrong medication. According to the ECRI Institute, a nonprofit group that focuses on protecting and advocating patient safety, more and more cases of medical negligence have been attributed to disorganized medical records and patient mix-ups. This happens when physicians, surgeons and other medical professionals mix up patient records and inadvertently treat the wrong patient.

Medical record study

Researchers involved in a study conducted by ECRI Institute wanted to find out just how common medical record errors are and how they affect patients across the country. The study looked at 7,613 cases that were voluntarily submitted by various healthcare organizations. These submissions are protected by a federal law that allows medical professionals to report errors without fear of liability. These cases, however, are thought to be severely underrated as many incidents of wrong patient treatment are never reported.

How do these medical document and identification errors occur? The study determined that approximately 13 percent of mistakes happen when patients are being registered, as intake information may be typed under the wrong patient. At least 22 percent of the errors involved people who received the wrong treatment or had the wrong procedure performed. Other errors involved lab work, diagnostic tests, missing or illegible wristbands or simply failure to check the patient's identity prior to treating.

Solving the problem

There are several things hospital administrators can do to help decrease the number of patient identity mix-ups. First, medical facilities should have a standardized method of checking patients, their medications and procedures. While some facilities implement a bar-code system that requires professionals to scan medication and patients' wristbands, others simply require a timeout where all patient information is checked.

Obtaining legal help

Imagine medical staff failing to render aid to a dying patient because they mistakenly thought the patient had a do-not-resuscitate order. In another case, an infant was given another mother's milk who was diagnosed with hepatitis. In the chaotic environment of an emergency room or surgical center, patient's records may be misread or misinterpreted, and as a result, patients can become injured or killed.

An attorney in Florida who understands how to handle cases of medical malpractice may be able to help you explore your legal options.