Mistakes by medical professionals are estimated to be the third-leading cause of death in the United States, behind only heart disease and cancer. As many as 440,000 people die because of mistakes in hospitals in the United States each year.
As an experienced medical malpractice lawyer in Kentucky, Rob Shelton knows that medical errors are reaching epidemic proportions. Mistakes have become a critical issue facing hospitals and health care providers, yet doctors and other healthcare providers are reluctant to admit their own mistakes or report when a colleague has made an error.
Fortunately, new guidelines have been issued to address this potentially harmful health care culture, where silence has proven time and time again to be deadly. The federal guidelines are designed to help doctors know when – and how – they should disclose their colleagues’ mistakes.
New Guidelines Aim To Eliminate Medical Errors
According to NBC News, the guidelines issued at the end of October provide explicit direction to doctors and hospitals and are designed to promote communication between hospital staff, administrators, and patients alike.
Authors of the guidelines advise hospital staff to “explore, don’t ignore.” The guidelines urge doctors who have witnessed a medical mistake or error to talk to their colleagues directly and respectfully to bring attention to mistakes that were made. This comes as a sharp contrast to a hospital culture where power dynamics, professional courtesy and medical culture often encourage doctors to remain silent in the face of potentially harmful errors.
Additionally, the guidelines encourage physicians to develop a course of action for openly communicating medical errors with patients. The guidelines state that patients who are harmed by a medical mistake or error deserve to receive a full accounting of the problem and “should not bear the burden of digging for information,” NBC said.
NBC reports that one hospital that adopted these guidelines early saw a drop in malpractice claims. The guidelines have been established to ensure that malpractice victims do not encounter a system that’s unfair or secretive about medical mistakes.
Will New Federal Guidelines Prevent Medical Malpractice Errors in Kentucky?
NBC reports that hospitals that have implemented these accident reporting programs have seen a sharp increase in error reporting. That’s a positive development, because hospitals can properly address how and why a mistake has occurred in the first place.
Although recent efforts to reduce medical mistakes appear to be helping to improve the quality of treatment for patients, hospitals still have a lot of work to do before medical mistakes drop off the list of leading causes of death in America.