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Fatal medical errors that may arise during your hospital stay

A visit to the hospital is certainly intended to save a life. But sometimes, it is not always the case. Like any human being, doctors and nurses make mistakes, and even seemingly tiny ones can cause infections and other medical problems that put lives in jeopardy, compiles Ann Wairimu

1. Unnecessary tests and deadly procedures

There have been alleged cases where a lot of tests are done the moment the doctor realises you have a medical insurance. Not only are unnecessary tests and treatments costly, they can also be deadly.

CT scans increase your lifetime risk of cancer, and dyes from CTs and MRIs can cause kidney failure. Even a simple blood draw can result in infection. This is not to say that you should never have a test done; only to be aware that there are risks involved, and to always ask why a test or procedure is needed.

2. Wrong diagnosis

The most common type of medical error is misdiagnosis. A wrong diagnosis can result in delay in treatment, sometimes with deadly consequences. Not receiving a diagnosis can be dangerous too; this is why it’s so important for a doctor to aim to figure out what you have, not just a list of things that you don’t have.

Medical equipment.

3. Medication mistakes

Virtually everyone has heard the story of operating on wrong limb or the wrong patient. There are more horror stories.

Food meant to go into stomach tubes go into chest tubes, resulting in severe infections.

Air bubbles go into IV catheters, resulting in strokes. Sponges, wipes, and even scissors are left in people’s bodies after surgery. These are all “never events”, meaning that they should never happen, but they do, often with deadly consequences.

4. Uncoordinated care

If you’re going to the hospital, chances are that you won’t be taken care of by your regular doctor, but by the doctor on call. You’ll probably see several specialists, who scribble notes in charts, but rarely coordinate with each other. You may end up with two of the same tests, or medications that interfere with each other. There could be lack of coordination between your doctor and your nurse, which can also result in confusion and medical error.

5. Infections from the hospital to you

Hospital-acquired infections affect 1.7 million people every year. These include pneumonias, infections around the site of surgery, urinary infections from catheters, and bloodstream infections from IVs. Such infections often involve bacteria that are resistant to many antibiotics, and can be deadly, especially to those with weakened immune systems.

6. Not-so-accidental “accidents”

Many “accidents” occur due to malfunctioning medical devices. Defibrillators don’t shock; pacemaker wires breaking; patients falling from bed. There are supposed to be safeguards to prevent these problems from happening, but even if they happen for one in 100 people, you don’t want to be that one person who experiences the “accident”?

7. Missed warning signs

When patients get worse, there is usually a period of minutes to hours where there are warning signs. You may feel worse, and there are often changes in your heart rate, blood pressure, and other measurements. Unfortunately, these warning signs are frequently missed, so that by the time they are finally noticed, there could have been irreversible damage.

8. Drug blunders

Adverse drug events (in medical parlance) are still among the most common types of preventable harm. Each time a drug is prescribed or administered, errors can sneak in: ordering the right drug in the right amount, filling the order correctly, and giving it in the right dose at the right time.

9. Clinician burnout

Caring for the sick is hard — and it’s getting harder. Hospital patients are sicker and stays are shorter, putting pressure on caregivers. Electronic medical record systems, meant to make life easier and help track data, can cause huge headaches. Clinicians who want to do the right thing find themselves on a hamster wheel going faster and faster.

10. Going home—not so fast

Have you witnessed a patient return to hospital within a month after discharge? This could be due to patients being discharged before they are ready, without understanding their discharge information, without adequate follow-up, or if there are complications with their care. The transition from hospital to home is one of the most vulnerable times, and miscommunication and misunderstanding can kill you after you get home from the hospital too.

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