According to a recent study in the Journal of Patient Safety, between 210,000 and 440,000 patients die each year in U.S. hospitals due wholly or in part to preventable medical errors. This makes medical mistakes the third-leading cause of death in the nation. Unfortunately, like others in every city across the nation, Illinois patients are often the victims of these errors. The first question that a medical malpractice attorney in Illinois often hears from victims’ families is what can be done to prevent these fatal errors from ever occurring again? A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that communication among caregivers may be the key to reducing these deadly errors.
Stanford Medicine News Center reports that nine children’s hospitals participated in the study in hopes of learning how handing off information during shift changes affects the rate of medical errors. At each hospital, medical residents used an acronym to help them remember what information they were to share and the order in which they were to share it with the next resident on duty. At each handoff, the medical residents used both oral and written communication to share the required information. To end the process, the receiving resident would repeat back a summary of what was communicated to ensure that nothing was omitted or incorrectly heard. Safeguards were put in place to ensure that the handoff procedure did not interfere with doctors’ workflow.
Effects of increased communication among caregivers
At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that they had effectively decreased preventable medical mistakes by 30 percent in participating hospitals. However, there was no change in non-preventable events. This indicates that it was the new way of handling handoffs that caused the decrease in adverse events and not simply a healthier, lower-risk patient base.
What it means for the future
A medical malpractice attorney in Illinois likely understands the significant impact that these increased communication practices may have on the rate of preventable patient deaths in the future. If the results of the study can be replicated, hospitals around the country may be able to prevent thousands of deaths every year. If industry regulators, such as the Joint Commission were to make the use of these increased communication practices mandatory among hospitals, and the results seen in the original study are duplicated, as many as 132,000 patients may be saved annually. Additionally, the practices may be applied to other workers in the healthcare industry, such as nurses, to help further eliminate preventable fatalities.
Those who have been injured by a medical professional’s mistake may be able to receive compensation for the damages they sustained. Injured parties or their families are urged to contact a medical malpractice attorney in Illinois to learn more about their rights and how to make a claim.