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High incidence of preventable medical errors highlighted in recent study

Back in May, researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine published a study which found that medical error is the third most common cause of death in the United States, following up heart disease and cancer. The study used data from previous research to estimate the medical error death rate at the national level based on hospital admissions in 2013.

The numbers the researchers came up with were nearly twice what is widely thought to be the rate of annual deaths due to preventable medical errors. Common preventable medical errors include things like medication errors, inappropriate blood transfusions, excess oxygen for premature babies, health care associated infections, and infections from central lines. 

Another common category of preventable medical errors is diagnostic errors. Studies have shown that there are over 12 million patients who experience a diagnostic error during outpatient visits every year. Diagnostic errors, for one reason or another, are an area where patient safety has not improved much in comparison to other areas, despite efforts to reduce their occurrence.

Diagnostic errors, like other types of medical and surgical errors, do not always have a harmful effect on patients. It really depends on the circumstances. Of the diagnostic errors that do occur every year, it is estimated that around half of these errors could result in harm to the patient. When it comes to seeking recovery, patients need to work with an experienced attorney to understand when it is appropriate to seek compensation and when doing so is going to involve more trouble and cost to the patient than is justified by the likely outcome.

In our next post, we'll continue looking at this topic. 

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