Furr & Henshaw
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April 2013 Archives

Constant noise from medical devices may lead to "alarm fatigue"

South Carolina patients and patients elsewhere may not be being given the treatment they need if hospital workers have "alarm fatigue." According to a hospital accrediting group, nonstop beeping from hospital monitoring devices may lead to workers tuning out the noises. This increases the chances that patients will not be treated in a timely manner and that medical malpractice may occur. The group believes that, on average, at least 24 deaths a year occur due to alarm fatigue. However, according to reports from the FDA, the number may be far greater. Between January 2005 and June 2010, the FDA found links between 500 deaths and hospital alarms; however, the reports include equipment malfunctions, so the cause of death may not be related to alarm fatigue. 

Why hospitals can be dangerous

South Carolina residents going to a hospital for medical care may feel that they are completely safe, but the unfortunate truth is that, according to the Institute of Medicine, about 100,000 people die from medical errors in the United States every year. In addition to instances of medical malpractice, people may end up being misdiagnosed, given the wrong type or amount of medication or put through unnecessary tests.One of the leading causes of harm to patients in hospitals is misdiagnosis. If someone's medical issue is not correctly identified, it is not going to be treated properly. Doctors need to be proactive about figuring out what patients are suffering from instead of just ruling out what they do not have. Related to this is being given the wrong type of medication or the wrong dosage. Even if someone has been diagnosed correctly, they may not end up getting the medication they need.

Shorter shifts for resident doctors lead to more errors

South Carolina residents may be aware that researchers have made a counterintuitive discovery that shorter shifts for resident doctors in hospitals lead to a greater number of errors. According to two studies being published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, misdiagnosis and other medical errors are more likely when residents work 16 hours without a break as opposed to 30 hours. The goal of the medical oversight board shortening shifts for residents was to reduce errors made by sleepy doctors according to a study done by the University of Michigan Medical School. However, in practice, residents working the shorter shift are 15 to 20 percent more likely to make a mistake. Two possible reasons for this are that residents are not sleeping more in spite of shorter shifts and increasing "handoff risks." When a patient does not have the same medical professional looking after them for an extended period of time, important diagnostic information may be missed.

Medical malpractice suits against hospitalists more common

According to a senior vice president with The Doctors Company, which is the largest U.S. provider of medical malpractice insurance for physicians, hospital-based physicians face a higher number of malpractice claims than primary care physicians. Medical malpractice claims against hospitalists also tend to carry a higher dollar value. This disparity between physicians working in different environments has led insurance companies to craft separate policies for the approximately 35,000 hospitalists.Why are hospitalists, who receive the same training as other medical doctors, at higher risk of malpractice suits? Medscape Today suggests several reasons for the difference. When patients are admitted to a hospital, the hospitalist generally takes over the role of the primary care physician. Primary physicians build relationships with their patients by learning how they communicate and gathering background information. Hospitalists lack these resources, which is a problem often compounded by greater job stress. The stress factor was highlighted by a Johns Hopkins survey of hospitalists. It showed that 40 percent of doctors believed hospital admittances routinely went above safe levels. Almost as many doctors claimed this occurred once per week.

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Phone: 843-213-6737
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