Medical mistakes cause an astonishing number of deaths and serious injuries every year. According to reliable estimates, medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer. There are evidence-based protocols that can greatly reduce the number of errors, but many health care providers prefer to expend energy denouncing medical malpractice lawsuits instead of focusing on patient safety initiatives that could save lives.
A new report on obstetric safety from Public Citizen shows both the seriousness of the problem and the degree to which safety initiatives can make a difference.
Obstetrics are an important area to focus on, because obstetric malpractice can have exceptionally terrible impacts on mothers and children. Thus, it accounts for a large portion of high-profile medical malpractice lawsuits.
According to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, there were over 157,000 injuries to newborns and mothers caused by preventable errors in just one year. Good practices make a difference, as shown in the variance in results from hospital to hospital. A study found that low-performing hospitals were two to five times more likely to have unexpected delivery complications than high-performing hospitals.
The steps needed to reduce medical errors are not complicated. They are, furthermore, relatively inexpensive to implement, if health care providers have the will to make changes. One of the simplest steps is improving communication among the obstetric team, including creating systems to articulate the most common errors. Data also supports discouraging induction of birth prior to 39 weeks gestation without a medical reason and reducing unnecessary cesarean sections.
As long as medical errors exist, there will be medical malpractice lawsuits. Doctors and hospitals could reduce both — and save patients’ lives — by focusing on safety first.
Paul Greenberg is a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.