Every year, an estimated 250,000 people die as a result of medical errors, and 10 times that amount are injured.  In searching for options for reducing medical errors occurring in hospitals and doctors’ offices every year, some experts have come to the conclusion that medical education is the key to reducing medical errors.

In July 2018, WBUR radio published an article online titled “Slips, Lapses, Fumbles: Medical Mistakes Kill, and a Solution is Seen in Education”.  This article offers an insightful perspective on the role of medical education in reducing medical errors.  Read on to learn more about medical errors, how education can help reduce them, and how you can learn more.

reducing medical errors

Reducing Medical Errors an Ongoing Problem

It has been 19 years since the Institute of Medicine published a notable, almost famous, paper identifying the staggering rates of injury and death caused by medical errors.  Since that time, little has been done to successfully reduce mortality rates, even though research has shown that errors are a consistent problem.

Every day, around 700 people in the U.S.  die due to a medical error.  In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classified medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the U.S.  Medical errors are not limited to one area of practice, or level of care.  Almost half of medical errors occur in doctor’s offices, rather than in hospitals.  Many medical errors also involve parties other than doctors, such as nurses, pharmacists, social workers, and even managers.

In 2017, a Mayo Clinic study reported some startling information about medical errors among surgeons in particular.  Consider the following:

  • 9 percent of U.S. surgeons participating in the Mayo Clinic study reported believing that they had made a “major medical error” within the past three months.
  • 5 percent of U.S. surgeons participating reported the belief that their error had resulted in a patient death.
  • During the period of time studied, suicidal tendencies doubled, and rates of depression among surgeons tripled.

No matter what type of care you are pursuing, you deserve to be treated with the utmost quality, respect, and care.  If you have questions about the care you have been provided by any member of a healthcare system, contact a medical malpractice law firm like Brown & Brothers to learn more about your legal rights.

Is Medical Education the Key to Reducing Medical Errors?

Dr.  Aubrey Milunsky is a doctor, professor, geneticist, and author who is passionate about the role of medical education in reducing medical errors.  In their recent article, WBUR interviewed Dr.  Milunsky about his experience as a doctor and educator, and his opinions about medical errors.

Dr.  Milunksy believes that all medical students of varying levels should be educated in risk management and understand how mistakes occur.  To protect patients, Dr.  Milunsky believes that medical school graduates, residents, and practicing physicians should obtain risk management certification and be re-certified during medical license renewal.  He also believes that there should be better education in terms of diagnostics.  Diagnostic education should move beyond how to diagnose, to what steps may be involved in the diagnosis process.  Currently, diagnostic errors account for around 30 percent of medical error cases.

The most common diagnostic errors include:

  • A doctor failing to look at all features presented in the case.
  • A doctor looking only at certain evidence related to his or her first impression.
  • Perpetuation of a diagnosis from another doctor.
  • Expertise bias – or the opinion that enough testing has been done, even if the cause has not been identified and further testing could be beneficial.

According to Dr.  Milunksy, current medical education programs do not adequately address identification of medical errors.  There are few, if any, programs that require educating students in error identification.  That has resulted in many good doctors making mistakes that could have been avoided had they been properly educated in risk management, error identification, and diagnostics.

How to Avoid Medical Errors

Medical errors have been deemed a national crisis and a leading cause of preventable injury and death.  As a patient, it is important to understand what steps you can take to assist in reducing medical errors in your care.  Consider these strategies to avoid medical errors:

  • When you go to a doctor’s office or hospital, take someone with you – a friend or family member who can help keep an eye on what is happening.
  • When you see a doctor, find out exactly what is going to happen – what tests are being done, when should results be available, how is a diagnosis reached?
  • Follow up with your doctor about test results. Were the results obtained? What did they indicate? Are more tests needed?
  • Once you receive a diagnosis, talk to your doctor about any concerns or questions you have. If you do not feel confident that your symptoms have been addressed, or that the diagnosis is accurate, it is okay to get a second opinion.
  • Keep all your medical records, copies of communication between you and your healthcare providers, and make notes of anything relevant as you seek diagnosis or treatment.  These records can be vital if you suffer from an error and choose to take legal action.

Get Help With Your Medical Error Case

If you believe that you or a loved one have suffered harm due to a medical error, it is important to get help as soon as possible – both medically and legally.  At Brown & Brothers, we understand the delicate nature of healthcare, and how devastating it can be to suffer an injury or illness that could have been prevented.  Our goal is to explore your individual case and find options that work in your best interests.

To learn more about your options, fill out our online form and one of our attorneys will contact you to set up a free consultation.

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