A new study is shining a light on how frequently hospitals mix up patient
medical records. It also highlights the potentially deadly consequences,
which include confusing a patient with a do-not-resuscitate order with
another who wants life-saving measures and performing surgery on a patient
based on the medical history of another patient.
ECRI Institute, a patient safety group, studied 7,613 patient identification
errors that occurred at 181 health-care organizations from January 2013
to July 2015. The data was gathered from a federal database where such
errors are voluntarily reported, which suggests that the incidence of
wrong-patient mistakes is likely much higher.
ECRI Institute’s analysis revealed that
wrong-patient errors can take place at numerous times during patient care. In total, more than 30 percent of the errors took
place during diagnostic testing. Another 22 percent of the mistakes occurred
during patient treatment, while 13 percent occurred during patient registration.
As the study also highlights, wrong-patient errors are so prevalent because
they can occur in a variety of health-care facilities, ranging from nursing
homes to hospital surgical wards. Mistakes can also be made by doctors,
nurses, pharmacists, lab technicians, and other medical staff.
“This is a huge problem that the general public isn’t aware
of,” said William Marella, executive director for operations and
analytics at the ECRI Institute’s Patient Safety Organization. “Pretty
much every clinician involved in your health care is at risk of making
this kind of error.”
Most of the patient identification mistakes analyzed in the study were
caught before the patients were harmed. However, the errors were fatal
in two cases. The risk for a bad outcome is compounded because many wrong-patient
medical errors impact at least two patients. For instance, when a patient
receives a medication intended for another patient, both patients—the
one who received the wrong medication and the one whose medication was
not provided—may suffer harm.
If you or someone you care about has suffered serious harm due to a serious
medical mistake, you may be entitled to compensation. For more information, please contact
a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage
for a free consultation.