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Forgetting common medical tasks proves costly

Not every instance of medical malpractice involves a single catastrophic mistake. In fact, some small medical errors can amount to significant problems for patients. When doctors and other medical professionals forget to do routine things, major problems can occur. North Carolina patients are entitled to feel safe when they are being treated for their ailments. Many instances of medical malpractice could be prevented if medical clinics and hospitals would install simple safety measures.

An 80-year-old grandmother's life could have been lengthened had medical professionals attending to her followed doctor's orders. The woman was instructed to wear compression socks to improve circulation following a stroke. However, her nurses failed to regularly remove the compression socks. As a result, the woman developed a severe infection in one of her legs that led to amputation. Her family believes she might have lived longer had the simple instructions been followed.

Often, these seemingly frivolous procedures are not carried out. This reflects humans' tendency to make mistakes. The upsetting element of this problem is that many of the errors that occur in medical treatment could be prevented if medical professionals worked more collaboratively and used checklists. For a long time, doctors have been viewed as the unquestioned authority on medical teams. In many cases it would be helpful for the hierarchy to be "flattened." If nurses and other care providers feel like there were not major differences between themselves and doctors, communication could flow more easily.

Another institutional change could be to institute regularly used checklists. Even in procedures a doctor has performed countless times, they might forget to do something. If medical professionals followed a checklist, including seemingly obvious things, errors might be cut down.

Some of the aforementioned changes have been instituted by some health care providers with success. These simple fixes indicate that professionals need to acknowledge that they can make mistakes. Instead of relying totally on themselves and their memory, it is better to work together and from a reliable list of steps. In any case, it should be a doctor's goal to do whatever they can to make a patient feel safe, and patients have a right to feel that their care providers are taking the necessary precautions to do so.

Source: Kaiser Health News, "Doctor, Did You Check Your Checklist?" Bara Vaida, Jan. 30, 2012

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