The Plain Dealer launches investigation into conditions at Ohio nursing homes
On March 19, John Caniglia and Jo Ellen Corrigan of The Plain Dealer published the initial findings of a multi-part investigation into Ohio’s nursing homes. Their report reveals a number of concerning statistics about the quality of care in facilities around the state and highlights tragic incidents of negligence and abuse. Continue reading “Are your loved ones safe in Ohio nursing homes?”
New Ohio Supreme Court ruling highlights unintended consequences of state’s cap on noneconomic damages.
On Dec. 14, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that capping noneconomic damages awarded to a teenage victim of sexual assault did not violate her constitutional rights. The victim’s $3.6 million jury verdict was reduced to just $500,000 after the cap was applied.
An analysis recently published by The BMJ claims medical errors are one of the most common causes of death in the U.S. The study estimates that medical errors are the cause of over 250,000 deaths per year, or nearly 700 each day. Based on the calculations, medical error ranks among the nation’s top three causes of death with cancer and heart disease.
“The U.S. government and private sector spend a lot of money on heart disease research and prevention. They also spend a lot of money on cancer research and prevention. It is time for the country to invest in medical quality and patient safety proportional to the mortality burden it bears,” advise the study’s authors in a letter to the CDC.
Serious injuries resulting from medical errors are another concern raised by the analysis. In this Washington Post article, Frederick van Pelt of The Chartis Group says the number of injuries could be 40 times greater than the number of deaths.
What is considered a medical error?
Medical errors are commonly the result of:
Breakdowns in communication
Medication and diagnostic errors
Lack of skill
These actions, or combinations of these actions, become medical errors when they result in the harm or death of a patient. They can occur at the individual or system level.
Although prevention of medical errors should be a public health priority, the authors of the study believe reporting limitations keep the issue from gaining the funding, research and attention necessary for change.
What’s wrong with the way medical errors are reported?
Physicians, funeral directors, medical examiners and coroners determine an individual’s cause of death using to the International Classification of Disease (ICD) code. As detailed by the study, human and system factors in medical care are not assigned an ICD code, meaning it’s likely that deaths caused by medical error are severely underreported.
How can you protect yourself from medical errors?
While many of the factors that contribute to medical errors are out of the patient’s control, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of becoming a victim.
Not all hospitals are created equal. Large, busy hospitals may be overwhelming, but inexperience at low-volume surgical centers can be deadly. Check out these tips on choosing a hospital and information about hospital rating systems.
It’s the championship football game and your favorite team is driving down the field to score a touchdown. Your star quarterback and seasoned offensive linemen are working together like a well-oiled machine. Everyone is in perfect sync and the entire team is seemingly moving as one. Your team can’t be stopped.
But wait! What’s this? A time out is called and in come a slew of substitutions. Your veteran quarterback and linemen are replaced by a rookie and four other practice squad players, who are being asked to play positions they have never played before.
For the rest of the game, lack of experience, unfamiliarity with each other and poor communication between the players lead to sacks, turnovers and a loss for your team.
Would the fans ever tolerate a change in personnel like this during the middle of an important game? No way!
But this is exactly the type of substitution that happens at Ohio’s teaching hospitals every summer and it puts patients at risk.
The most dangerous month for surgery
Every July, at teaching hospitals like The Cleveland Clinic, Ohio State University Hospital and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, there is a change of health care providers that threatens the safety of the patients at these facilities.
This is when the most experienced residents graduate and leave the hospital. These graduating residents have spent the past three to six years training under the guidance of more experienced doctors and the patients at these teaching hospitals served as their case studies.
However, these experienced residents are replaced by brand new doctors who just graduated from medical school. To compound the problem, the remaining residents who have been at the hospital for a year or two are now being asked to assume new and unfamiliar roles. Consequently, this can be a very dangerous time for patients at these teaching hospitals.
This is such a dangerous time of year for patients that studies show the rate of patient deaths and complications from medical procedures increases between 8% and 34% during the month of July.
Dr. John Young of the University of California, San Francisco, reported these findings in a study he published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Every year this “July effect” – as the hospitals sometimes refer to it – affects about 100,000 doctors in teaching hospitals around the country. According to Dr. Young, no other industry undergoes such a dramatic change in personnel on such a regular basis.
Steps for a safer medical operation
So what can you do to protect yourself and your family members? Here are three tips from an experienced Ohio medical malpractice attorney:
1. Ask your doctor if he or she will be performing your surgery at a teaching hospital where doctors in training may be involved in your care. Some hospitals are not teaching hospitals or your procedure might be performed at a surgery center that does not use residents. If that is the case, then you likely won’t be affected by this problem.
2. If your surgery is elective and it is safe for you to put it off, request that your surgery be scheduled during the first six months of the year. At that time, the doctors being trained at a teaching hospital will be more experienced and familiar with the hospital’s policies, procedures and nursing staff, and there will be less of a chance for a mistake to be made.
3. If you have to have your surgery during the summer months because it can’t wait, let it be known that you want the most experienced doctor to perform your surgery and to be very involved in your care. Ohio’s teaching hospitals are important to train the doctors of the future, but your health and well-being should not suffer because you are being used as the guinea pig for a brand new doctor.
Craig McLaughlin represents people who have been seriously injured or killed as a result of nursing home neglect, motor vehicle crashes, defective products, workplace accidents and medical negligence. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell, AVVO and is a life member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Million Dollar Advocates Forum.