Understanding the Risks of Medical Errors in Hospitals

attorney Joseph Taraska

Medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in the United States of America, posing a serious threat to public health, according to attorney Joseph Taraska. Researchers have found it challenging to uncover a consistent cause of such errors, but by recognizing the circumstances of adverse events, hospital staff can learn and work toward preventing them. 

As doctors, surgeons, nurses, and other practitioners continue to address safety challenges and implement workable solutions, experts have put forth the most common medical errors in hospital settings for patients to understand.

Common Medical Errors in Hospitals

Typically, medical errors are split into two categories — omission and commission. Errors of omission are caused by actions not taken. Commission errors happen due to incorrect actions being taken. 

However, there are also sub-categories often seen in hospital settings, such as the following:

Surgical Errors

Despite adverse effect awareness, surgical errors still occur at alarmingly high rates. Interestingly, such errors seem to usually occur either prior to or after the procedure rather than during the operation. 

The most common surgical errors are caused by:

  • A lack of surgeon training and education 
  • Absence of standardized regulations
  • Communication gaps
  • Rushing and hastiness 
  • Unreliable systems
  • Human factors 

To combat the above errors and enhance patient safety, hospitals have introduced a range of helpful guidelines, such as confirming the identity of a patient and the type of surgery beforehand, adopting checklists for all parts of every process, and verbal conclusions before leaving the operating theater. 

General Diagnostic Errors

According to the Joint Commission, 40,000 to 80,000 deaths or injuries every year are caused by these errors. They’re generally seen in primary care practices, but can crossover into the hospital. 

The most commonly missed diagnoses include:

  • Acute pyelonephritis
  • Renal failure
  • Appendicitis
  • Angina
  • Hypertension
  • Metastatic cancer
  • Cellulitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Spinal cord compression
  • UTI

Currently, the misdiagnosis rate is around 10% to 15% in the US. 

Medication Errors

Medication errors are deemed as preventable events that can include everything from failing to pay attention to a product label to the use of incorrectly stocked dispensing machines. 

Barcode administration and technological solutions have been implemented in most hospitals around the country to prevent further occurrences. 

Tubing Misconnection

Tubing and catheter connection errors are extremely common. If such errors aren’t caught and corrected early on, the consequences can be life-threatening.

Examples of such misconnections and misplacements include:

  • Putting feeding tubes on ventilator ports
  • Using catheters for unintended purposes
  • Inserting feeding tubes into the lung instead of the stomach
attorney Joseph Taraska

Latrogenic Infections

Infections from hospitals are considered a system failure, with one in 20 hospitalized people acquiring establishment-related infections.

These errors can occur from failure to practice basic hand hygiene or the use of poor technique while placing vascular catheters. Regardless of the reason, though, these consequences can increase the lengths, costs, and complications of any individual’s hospital stay. 

Steps Victims of Medical Malpractice Should Take

Those who believe they are victims of medical malpractice should:

  1. Document everything
  2. Ask the involved practitioners to explain what you do not understand
  3. Request a copy of the complete medical record
  4. Contact an attorney with experience handling medical malpractice cases

Despite the regularity of some errors, hospitals are constantly striving to enhance patient care and provide positive outcomes for all. However, remaining abreast of typical errors allows patients to get the help they deserve if they become a victim of malpractice.