Columbus Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Legal Blog

Steps that can be taken to prevent a misdiagnosis

Every nine minutes, a patient in Ohio or elsewhere in the U.S. dies because of a delayed or incorrect diagnosis. That means that as many as 80,000 people die each year because of an improper diagnosis. An effort called ACT for Better Diagnosis is aiming to reduce the negative impact of misdiagnosis. It has identified several different factors making it more likely that a medical error will happen when diagnosing a patient.

Among those factors include a lack of time to spend with the patient, a lack of feedback and a lack of funding. In some cases, the process of making a diagnosis is too complicated. The effort is being undertaken by 40 groups, but the way that each group chooses to address the issue will be determined by their own criteria. It is estimated about 12 million people will be impacted by an improper diagnosis.

Mistaken test analysis could lead to a misdiagnosis

Every year, men in Ohio and around the country are diagnosed with prostate cancer. When determining the stage that the cancer has reached, doctors often use positron emission tomography (PET) scans to determine whether the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body. These scans often measure levels of prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) found in the body. Because this enzyme is particularly expressive, it can be especially useful for imaging technology used to diagnose cancer and determine treatment regimens.

However, some researchers have warned that relying solely on these scans could lead to misdiagnoses that could negatively impact men with prostate cancer. There are benign tissues in the body that also show signs of elevated PSMA during a scan, including areas of the bowels, kidneys, salivary glands and ganglia. These can be mistaken for advanced metastases of the lymph nodes when a physician is examining PET scan results. If the wrong stage of cancer is misdiagnosed, patients could receive unneeded and even damaging treatment, given the side effects that can accompany radiation and chemotherapy.

Did your loved one wander out of a nursing home?

Placing an aging loved one in a nursing home is a huge act of trust as much as it is a source of relief for many families. Unfortunately, in far too many cases, the relief is short-lived and the family's trust is violated. Even when a nursing home or other care facility comes highly recommended, some patients do not receive the care and protection they deserve, and the family must take matters into their own hands to protect their loved one from inattention or abuse.

One of the most common and harmful forms of neglect that occurs in nursing homes is simply allowing residents to wander off campus and into dangerous territory. If you recently experienced a loved one wandering out of a nursing home, this is not a matter that you should take lightly. Some elder care facilities may try to gloss over the matter, framing it a humorous incident, but there is nothing funny about allowing an elderly person in need of supervision to wander freely into danger.

Medication safety risks that may be overlooked

All it takes is one medication oversight to trigger an adverse reaction that may seriously affect a patient's health and quality of life. Realistically, not all medication errors that may occur in Ohio are entirely preventable. Oftentimes, it's not until a serious or fatal reaction affects a patient that risks previously overlooked become clear. For this reason, increasing the awareness of less-obvious medication safety risks may lead to improvements with the management of patient and drug information and communications among staff and medical professionals.

Patient information is required to be kept in electronic health records (EHRs). Even so, medical malpractice injury lawyers sometimes have cases where orders are placed on the wrong patient's EHR. According to one study, more than a dozen wrong-patient EHRs are placed daily in larger hospitals. Such errors sometimes occur when health care professionals are interrupted or if multiple EHRs are open at the same time. Possible solutions suggested include requiring the re-entry of the patient's ID to confirm that the correct record is being accessed.

Chicago startup's software could prevent rare surgical errors

Ohio residents may be interested to know that a startup in Chicago is developing software that could not only reduce but prevent serious surgical errors, such as operating on the wrong part of the body or transplanting the wrong organ. Such errors occur in only .03 percent of operations every year in the U.S., but that still comes to about 8,000 to 10,000 patients being injured or permanently disabled.

SafeStart Medical is the name of the startup, and it was established in 2015 by a man who had practiced general surgery for 38 years at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The software that it developed, which is compliant with HIPAA rules, can create enhanced patient safety records. The administrative side begins by putting in clinical documents, surgeon annotated photos and allergies and consent forms, and in the end, the patient reviews and approves of the record and the scheduled surgery.

Should motorized scooters be regulated?

Motorized and electronic scooters offer a means for efficient, inexpensive transportation through the streets of Columbus. However, these devices -- which generally consist of two small wheels, a standing platform, a pair of handlebars and a rechargeable electric motor -- are extremely dangerous in the event of a collision.

The users of motorized scooter -- just like like motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians -- are extremely vulnerable to suffering catastrophic injuries in a serious collision. For this reason, the City of Columbus might want to consider the institution of scooter regulations.

Most radiology malpractice claims result in injuries or death

In a recently released five-year study, approximately 80 percent of radiology-related missed diagnosis claims resulted in either permanent injury or death. For the study, approximately 10,000 of an insurance company's closed claims from the years between 2013 and 2017 were analyzed. These results could be of concern for many Ohio patients.

According to the study, about 15 percent of all malpractice claims involved radiologists. About 80 percent of the claims were a result of a misinterpretation of clinical tests. Furthermore, it was found that certain misdiagnoses were more common than others. For example, misdiagnoses involving cancer were the most common, with breast, pancreatic, ovarian and lung cancers also being prevalent. Radiology misdiagnoses can be particularly harmful to patients as they may result in delayed treatment of potentially deadly diseases.

The dangers of drowsy driving

When Ohioans drive while drowsy, they make the roads more dangerous for others. The symptoms of fatigue can interfere with a motorist's reaction times and ability to focus.

In a study by the American Sleep Foundation, 50 percent of adults admitted to consistently driving while drowsy and 40 percent admitted to having fallen asleep behind the wheel at least once. The Governors Highway Safety Association reports that an estimated 5,000 people were killed in 2015 because of drowsy driving.

Truck accidents and electronic control modules

When a truck accident occurs, the devastation it can cause is enormous. In the wrong circumstances, a single large commercial truck can destroy many other small consumer vehicles, producing thousands upon thousands of dollars in damages and severe injuries at the scene.

Needless to say, gathering as much information about the causes of the accident as you can find is an important part of dealing with any truck accident, especially if you suspect that the truck driver or some aspect of the vehicle is responsible for the accident.

Avoiding an afternoon visit to the doctor

Ohio residents will want to think twice before scheduling an afternoon visit with their doctor. There are at least six good reasons to avoid a visit at that time, the first being that doctors and nurses, like other workers, suffer from the "afternoon slump" where fatigue increases and productivity decreases. Their work shifts go against the circadian rhythm and make them more prone to medical mistakes.

A second reason is that anesthesiologists make more mistakes in the afternoon, especially between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. A Duke University study reviewed about 90,000 hospital surgeries and estimated the probability of a mistake to be 1 percent at 3 p.m. and 4.2 percent at 4 p.m.; this is compared to 0.3 percent at 8 a.m. and 1 percent at 9 a.m.

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