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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Zambakari

Behind Closed Doors: The Shocking Reality of Medical Errors in America

Updated: Feb 15

Dr. Christopher Zambakari, B.S., MBA, M.I.S., LP.D.

Owner/Operator; Desert Haven Home Care, Apollo Residential Assisted Living, Villa Fiore Assisted Living-Prescott Valley

 

Under a single home care umbrella, Desert Haven Home Care, Apollo Residential Assisted Living, and Villa Fiore Assisted Living-Prescott feature unparalleled care, feature unparalleled care, service and advocacy in the compassionate treatment of senior citizens in need of medical attention. Offered in a familial setting, the facilities are teamed by professionals passionate about their work and fully engaged in the welfare of residents. Each facility proudly provides patient-centric supervisory, assisted and directed care, short-term respite stays and memory care support for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.


This following exploration of medical error in the U.S. is one of a series of regular informational blogs relative to the field of service, care and the treatment of those requiring medical attention.


Editor’s note: It is important to clarify that dementia is not a specific disease but rather a general term referencing loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities. Notes Ability Central, a California-based nonprofit assisting families and caregivers, dementia is a group of symptoms caused by other conditions, and Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, contributing to 60-70 percent of all dementia cases. Other forms of dementia include Lewy body, frontotemporal, Huntington’s, mixed dementia and vascular.

 

There are caveats in life. Warnings are everywhere. There are five different cautionary labels on cigarettes. Drink responsibly is the admonition on alcohol products. Read the instructions before operating power tools, and don’t stick your tongue on a frozen pole.


But, what about healthcare warnings?


Credit: RF._.Studio / Pexels

Consider a couple candidates. Warning: As many as 400,000 hospitalized patients experience some type of preventable harm each year. And another: Beware: More than 4,000 surgical errors occur in the U.S. annually. There could be labels warning of diagnostic errors, medication errors, anesthesia errors, communications errors and more.


Brought to you by the people you’ve been told to trust.


Medical errors are a harsh reality many Americans face every day. Behind closed doors, patients are often subjected to substandard care that can lead to devastating consequences. From misdiagnoses to surgical mistakes, these errors can have a profound impact on a ’patient’s health and well-being. As the owner and operator of three assisted living care homes in Phoenix, Glendale, and Prescott Valley in Arizona, I am able to use my experience and industry contacts to raise awareness about the shocking reality of medical errors in America, and to empower patients to take an active role in their own healthcare.


Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in America.

Whether you are a healthcare professional, a patient or simply someone who cares about the well-being of others, I invite you to join me in this crucial conversation. Together, we can work towards a safer, more compassionate healthcare system for all.


Defining medical errors – types and causes

Medical errors have been defined by the American Medical Association as, “an error is an unintended act or omission or a flawed system or plan that harms or has the potential to harm a patient.” These errors can occur at any point in the healthcare process, from diagnosis to treatment to follow-up. In addition to those mentioned earlier, other mistakes occur in the treatment of infections and secondary complications, discharge status and malfunctioning medical devices. These errors can be caused by a variety of factors, including human, system and technology mishaps. For example, a medication error may occur when a healthcare provider prescribes the wrong medication or dosage, or when a patient is given the wrong medication due to a mix-up in the pharmacy. Surgical errors may occur when a surgeon performs the wrong procedure or operates on the wrong body part. Misdiagnosis can occur when a healthcare provider fails to properly diagnose a condition, leading to delayed or incorrect treatment. Communication errors may occur when there is a breakdown in communication between healthcare providers, or between healthcare providers and patients. Early discharge often leads to unnecessary returns for the same treatments. These errors can have serious consequences, including injury, disability, and even death.


The impact of medical errors on patients and families

The impact of medical errors on patients and families can be devastating. Patients who experience medical errors may suffer from physical, emotional or and financial harm; in some instances, all three. Patients may require additional medical treatment, may experience a lower quality of life and may suffer from long-term disabilities. Families of patients who experience medical errors may also suffer from emotional and financial harm. They may experience grief, anger and frustration, and may be burdened with additional healthcare costs. In some cases, as noted above, medical errors can lead to the loss of a loved one.

The impact of medical errors can be particularly devastating for vulnerable populations, such as elderly patients or those with chronic illnesses. It is important for patients and families to be aware of the potential risks of medical errors and to take an active role in their healthcare to prevent these errors from occurring.


Together, we can work towards a safer, more compassionate healthcare system for all.

By the numbers: medical errors in the US

Medical errors are a significant problem in America, with an estimated 250,000 deaths attributed to medical errors each year. Ten percent of all deaths nationally are the result of healthcare mistakes. According to some studies, medical error is one of the leading causes of death in America, behind only heart disease and cancer. In addition to the human toll of medical errors, these errors also have a significant economic impact, costing the healthcare system an estimated $17 billion each year.


The numbers aren’t secret. Countless agencies – local, regional, national – track medical errors and report them regularly. The scope of the problem is third behind killers heart disease and cancer. The scope of the problem includes wrong diagnoses, drug dosage miscalculations, and treatment delays. Healthcare providers and policymakers must dig deeper into the numbers in order to work meaningfully toward solutions to the prevention of medical errors.


The healthcare system’s response to medical errors

Thus far, the healthcare system has responded to the problem of medical errors in a variety of ways. One approach has been to implement patient safety initiatives, such as the Institute for Healthcare “Improvement’s “100,000 Lives Campaign,” and the World Health “Organization’s “Patient Safety Solutions”. These initiatives aim to improve patient safety by addressing specific areas of concern, such as medication safety and surgical safety. Another approach has been to implement electronic health records (EHRs), which can help to reduce the risk of medical errors by providing healthcare providers with access to a ’patient’s complete medical history and medication list. In addition, healthcare providers are encouraged to report medical errors through a variety of channels, including internal reporting systems and state or federal reporting programs. These reports can help to identify areas of concern and to develop strategies for preventing future errors.


At the end of the day, real progress will be made when low thresholds for error are set – close calls must be subject to such review – and the focus of the reviews is not blame but cure. Error-reporting systems must be established nationwide, across all 50 states. Legislation must advance the work of previous acts – in 2000, the Medical Errors Reduction Act, the Medication Error Prevention Act, and the Stop All Frequent Errors in Medicare and Medicaid Act were steps in the right direction, but more progress is needed.


Thinking and acting must be strategic.


Strategies for preventing medical errors: patient-centered care, communication and technology

There are several strategies that healthcare providers and patients can use to prevent medical errors. One key strategy is to prioritize patient-centered care, which involves engaging patients in their own healthcare and tailoring care to their individual needs and preferences. This can help to ensure that patients receive appropriate care and that healthcare providers have a complete understanding of a ’patient’s medical history and current condition. Another strategy is to improve communication between healthcare providers and patients, as well as between healthcare providers themselves. Effective communication can help to reduce the risk of misdiagnosis, medication errors and other types of deadly mistakes. Finally, technology can be used to help prevent medical errors, such as through the use of EHRs, computerized physician order entry (CPOE) and bar-coding systems for medications and patient identification. These technologies can help to ensure that healthcare providers have access to accurate and up-to-date information, and can help to reduce the risk of errors.


Healthcare providers and policymakers must dig deeper into the numbers in order to work meaningfully toward solutions to the prevention of medical errors.

The role of healthcare professionals in preventing medical errors

Healthcare professionals play a critical role in preventing medical errors. They are responsible for providing safe, effective and high-quality care to their patients. To do this, healthcare professionals must be knowledgeable about best practices for preventing medical errors, and must be committed to ongoing education and training. They must also prioritize patient-centered care and effective communication, and must be willing to engage in open and honest discussions with patients about their healthcare needs and preferences. In addition, healthcare professionals must be aware of the potential risks of medical errors, and must take steps to prevent these errors from occurring. This may include implementing patient safety initiatives, using technology to improve patient safety, and reporting medical errors through appropriate channels.


Legal implications of medical errors: medical malpractice and patient rights

Medical errors can have serious legal implications for healthcare providers and patients alike. Patients who have been harmed by medical errors may have legal recourse through medical malpractice lawsuits. These lawsuits can help to hold healthcare providers accountable for their actions, and can provide financial compensation for patients who have suffered harm.


However, medical malpractice lawsuits can be complex and time-consuming, and may involve significant legal fees. Patients considering a medical malpractice lawsuit should consult with an experienced attorney to discuss options. In addition, patients have certain rights when it comes to their healthcare, including the right to informed consent, the right to access their medical records, and the right to file a complaint with a state or federal agency if they believe their rights have been violated.


Resources for patients and families affected by medical errors

Patients and families who have been affected by medical errors may need support and resources to navigate the aftermath of these events. There are several organizations that provide information and support for patients and families affected by medical errors, including the Patient Safety Network, the National Patient Safety Foundation, and the Empowered Patient Coalition. These organizations can provide information about patient safety initiatives, resources for reporting medical errors and support for patients and families who have been affected by medical errors. In addition, patients and families may benefit from speaking with a healthcare advocate or a patient representative, who can help to navigate the healthcare system and advocate for their rights.


Conclusion: the need for increased awareness and action to prevent medical errors

Medical error is a serious problem in America. It is a healthcare issue, just like heart disease and cancer. It has far-reaching consequences for patients and families. While the healthcare system has made strides in addressing this problem, there is still much work to be done. Patients and healthcare providers must work together to prioritize patient-centered care, effective communication, and the use of technology to prevent medical errors. In addition, policymakers must continue to support patient safety initiatives and to hold healthcare providers accountable for providing safe, effective and high-quality care. By working together, we can create a healthcare system that prioritizes patient safety and provides the best possible care for all.


For more information, you can reach me or one of my team at info@deserthavenaz.com


 

About the Author

Dr. Christopher Zambakari is the owner and operator of three Arizona-based assisted living care homes – Desert Haven Home Care in Phoenix, Apollo Residential Assisted Living in Glendale, and Villa Fiore Assisted Living in Prescott Valley, Arizona. He provides direction and oversight to a team of licensed medical and caregiving professionals to ensure the highest levels of customized care, service and advocacy at each of his facilities. Zambakari is founder and CEO of The Zambakari Advisory, an international consultancy in the areas of strategic intelligence, program design and transitional processes. He is a Hartley B. and Ruth B. Barker Endowed Rotary Peace Fellow, and the assistant editor of the Bulletin of The Sudans Studies Association.











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