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Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice (Health Care Liability)

According to data published by the Tennessee Fire Incident Reporting System, in the past five years, seven people have lost their lives due to fires caused by medical oxygen. Another nine people were injured and the property damage associated with these fires exceeds $710,000.00. 

Oxygen-rich environments present a very real fire threat. But, there are steps you can take to prevent a serious accident:

1. Keep oxygen canisters at least 5 to 10 feet away from ignition sources such as candles, fireplaces, stoves, etc. 

As we wrap-up Patient Safety Week, we want to conclude with some steps you can take to prevent being the victim of a medical error:

1. Write down questions you have of your doctor so you do not forget to ask about issues that are important to you;

2. Do not be afraid to ask questions about your medications, risks v. benefits of procedures, alternative treatment options, etc. This is your health and life and you are entitled to have a complete understanding of all issues. If your doctor is reluctant or hostile to such questions, you should seriously consider changing doctors.

According to research conducted by John Hopkins Medical Center, diagnostic errors do the most harm to patients and result in the most medical malpractice claims and additional expenses.   Diagnostic errors can be either a missed diagnosis, a delayed diagnosis or a wrong diagnosis. Some of the most common reasons for diagnostic errors are:

* Switched or lost lab or imaging reports;

* Failure to perform a diagnostic test when required;

Earlier in the week, we discussed the "never event" of wrong site surgeries. Another never event is patient falls. Patient falls in hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities should never happen. In fact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will typically not reimburse medical facilities for additional medical treatment that is necessitated by a patient fall. And additional medical treatment is often required because falls can cause traumatic brain injuries, broken bones and even death. 

Falls can be caused by a number of factors including medications, abnormal blood pressure, lack of fall precautions, inadequate staffing, etc. At The Law Offices of John Day, P.C., our award-winning attorneys are experienced in medical malpractice cases. In fact, John Day is board-certified in medical malpractice by the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys. And, we have a nurse on staff full-time who can help address medical issues and questions.

If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries due to a fall in a medical setting, contact us online or call us at 615-742-4880 or toll-free at 866-812-8787 for a free, no-obligation consultation. We handle all medical malpractice cases on a contingency basis which means we only get paid if we win.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each day roughly 1 in every 20 hospitalized patients will develop a healthcare-associated infection as a result of receiving medical care. And, that statistic does not include infections acquired at doctor’s offices and long-term care facilities. There are several types of healthcare-acquired infections including: bloodstream infections, surgical site infections, gastrointestinal infections, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, ventilator-associated pneumonia, injection site infections, etc.

To help prevent these dangerous threats to patient safety, the Centers for Disease Control Prevention has developed checklists for all types of medical facilities including dialysis clinics, long-term care facilities, dental offices, etc.   Of course, in an emergency situation, you do not have the luxury of researching the best medical facility. But, if you are scheduling a medical procedure or surgery, take the time to do some research at such sites at www.healthgrades.com. In addition to searching health grades, we recommend patients research all aspects of their medical providers. In Tennessee, health.state.tn.us allows consumers and patients to check licensing information, abuse registry etc. disciplinary actions, etc.  

Finally, be an advocate for yourself or your family member. If a medical professional is not practicing good hygiene (i.e, using hand sanitizer upon entering the room, etc.) or the hospital room is dirty, etc., speak up and demand action. 

National Patient Safety Week continues and so does our discussion about preventable medical errors. Medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the United States. Only cancer and heart-disease claim more lives.   Accidents, stroke, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease are not even close to the deaths caused by preventable medical errors. 

With that background, today we will look at medicine errors. Medicine errors can take many forms. The wrong medicine or the wrong quantity can be administered. The medicine can be administered at the wrong time resulting in either ineffective treatment or an overdose situation. Or, a medication can have a dangerous adverse drug interaction with a medication the patient is already receiving.

According to the National Patient Safety Foundation, 1.5 million Americans are harmed each year by preventable medicine errors. These errors can occur by pharmacies and by medical professionals in a hospital or long-term care setting. As a patient, there are steps you can take to help prevent medicine errors. In the event your medical condition renders you unable to monitor your medications, it can be very helpful for a family member to ensure the accuracy of any medications administered to you. 

An estimated 2,080 wrong site surgeries errors occur each year in the United States. The term wrong site surgery actually encompasses several different types of errors that occur in the operating room including wrong site, wrong side, wrong procedure and wrong patient surgeries. Wrong site surgeries are "never events" — meaning they should never happen. 

First, as the name implies, a wrong site surgery is where a surgeon actually operates on the wrong body part. Patient A is supposed to undergo an appendectomy but instead the doctor removes a kidney. An example of wrong side surgery is when the surgeon does a knee replacement on the left instead of the right leg. Sometimes surgeons will perform a surgery on the wrong patient. For instance, patient A is scheduled to have an appendectomy. But because proper protocols were not followed, the doctor actually performs the appendectomy on patient B, who was supposed to undergo a bowel resection. Finally, the doctor may have the patient, the site and the side correct but may still perform the wrong surgery. For instance, patient A is supposed to undergo an ACL repair of his right knee. Instead, the doctor performs a total knee replacement on patient A’s right knee. 

Obviously, these types of medical errors are completely and totally preventable. Here are some of the common ways wrong site surgeries occur:

In honor of Patient Safety Week, all of our blog posts this week will be related to medical malpractice and patient safety. To start, we want to give you some idea of the size of the problem and then we will examine some of the most common types of preventable medical errors and conclude the week with some steps you can take to protect yourself and your family. But, first the scope of the problem.

So how bad is it? A 2013 study by the Journal of Patient Safety estimated 400,000 Americans die each year due to preventable medical errors.   Think about that for a minute. That is the equivalent of the entire populations of Murfreesboro, Brentwood, Franklin, Gallatin, Hendersonville and Clarksville dying each year from preventable medical errors.   Staggering, to say the least.

These preventable errors do not just cost the patients and their families. According to the Journal of Health Care Finance, these medical errors are estimated to cost Americans nearly $1 trillion per year due to additional medical costs, shortened life spans and loss of productivity. 

The number of Tennessee health care liability lawsuits (formerly known as medical malpractice lawsuits) remains over 30% lower than it was just five years ago.  What follows is a list of the number of medical malpractice lawsuits filed in each of the Tennessee judicial circuits in the one year period ending on June 30, 2013.

Of course, the mere filing of a lawsuit does not mean that the claim will be successful.  Although precise data on this point is hard to come by, only about 20% of health care liability claims ultimately result in any payment to the patient.  Your odds of filing a successful claim increase if you have an experienced medical malpractice lawyer evaluate your case and, if the case is determined to have merit, pursue your case via an out-of-court settlement or trial.

Here is the data:

Tennessee Medical Malpractice Filings for the Year Ending June 30, 2013
Judicial Circuit  County or Counties in the Judicial Circuit Number of Filings
1st  Carter, Johnson, Unicoi, and Washington  8
2nd  Sullivan 20
3rd  Green, Hamblen, Hancock, and Hawkins 1
4th Cocke, Grainger, Jefferson, and Sevier 2
5th Blount 1
6th Knox 40
7th Anderson 2
8th Campbell, Claiborne, Fentress, Scott, and Union 6
9th Loudon, Meigs, Morgan, and Roane 1
10th Bradley, McMinn, Monroe, and Polk 9
11th Hamilton 27
12th Bledsoe, Franklin, Grundy, Marion, Rhea, and Sequatchie 3
13th Clay, Cumberland, DeKalb, Overton, Pickett, Putnam, and White 7
14th Coffee 2
15th Jackson, Macon, Smith, Trousdale, and Wilson 7
16th Cannon and Rutherford 15
17th Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall, and Moore 1
18th Sumner 11
19th Montgomery and Robertson 4
20th Davidson 58
21st Hickman, Lewis, Perry and Williamson 1
22nd Giles, Lawrence, Maury and Wayne 5
23rd Cheatham, Dickson, Houston, Humphreys, and Stewart 7
24th Benton, Carroll, Decatur, Hardin, and Henry 5
25th Fayette, Hardeman, Lauderdale, McNairy, and Tipton 2
26th Chester, Henderson, and Madison 9
27th Obion and Weakley 7
28th Crockett, Gibson, and Haywood 3
29th Dyer and Lake 2
30th Shelby 119
31st Warren 0

There were a  total of 385 medical malpractice filings for the year ending June 30, 2013.   

For more information about Tennessee medical malpractice cases click on the link.  If you would like us to determine if we can help you with your potential malpractice claim, file out our Contact Form.

It happens all too often: a patient wakes up from surgery to be advised all has gone well. But then weeks, months and sometimes years later, the patient starts experiencing symptoms such as pain or vomiting which do not seem to be related to any trauma or illness.   Doctors can find no explanation for the symptoms and, in some cases, the patient is treated as if the problem is in their head. Only after the symptoms become acute or when the patient and doctor are relentless in their search for an answer is the real culprit revealed: a retained object from the surgery. 

Retained objects come in many forms including scalpels, clamps, scissors, tubing, needles. But, the most common is sponges which account for about two-thirds of all retained objects. The most common method for tracking sponges is a simple manual count. But clearly, that old-fashioned method is not effective as it should be because each year roughly 4,000 cases of retained surgical items are reported in this country. 

Technology exists which is much better at preventing retained object cases. Sponges can be tracked through the use of a radio-frequency tag. The tag itself is tiny — roughly the size of a grain of rice and is embedded in each sponge. At the end of the surgery, the system can detect if any sponges were forgotten inside the patient. In a study conducted at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, this system prevented 23 sponges being left in surgical patients over the course of just 11 months. And the cost for this added patient security? About $10.00 per procedure. The additional time to use the system before closing the patient? About 12 seconds.

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