Service of Learning from Costly Medical Mistakes

May 19th, 2016

Categories: Common Sense, Medical Care, Medical Malpractice


Umpteen articles and op-eds have been written about malpractice lawsuits. I found Laura Landro’s Wall Street Journal piece heartening as she described how doctors are using the information to improve care.

This approach is clearly a benefit to physicians to alleviate the number of distracting and time-consuming lawsuits made against them but as a patient, I was glad that someone is learning from the mistakes to prevent future instances. I also hope this initiative is nothing new.

MalpracticeIn “Mining Malpractice Data to Make Health Care Safer,” Landro reports on a 2013 study that doctors spend “11 percent of a 40 year career with an unresolved, open malpractice case.” Scarier is the statistic that “250,000 deaths a year are due to medical error.” This, according to Landro, came from a recent article in BMJ that noted findings by Johns Hopkins researchers. Commonly the causes are misdiagnosis or “poor technique in a procedure.”

Landro broke out what doctors in a few specialties have learned:

  • Usually overweight mothers matched with larger babies can cause shoulder injuries to infants if they get stuck inside the mother. By identifying those who might be at risk for this set of circumstances, a hospital and doctor can address the option of a C-section early.
  • In the ER, one doctor noticed that “failure to explore a wound that was infected or contained foreign bodies was a key factor in many cases.” Now a doctor in that hospital must check a wound after a nurse or PA attends to it and before it’s sewn up. They noticed that this, alone, didn’t do the trick because sometimes they miss, say, a stingray barb. Therefore patients must be instructed to return to the hospital if they don’t feel well.
  • In cardiology, blood thinners cause problems because “patients haven’t been properly educated about the risks and didn’t understand follow up instructions.” And when more than one doctor is involved, each may think that the other one has taken care of communicating this information. The solution was to ensure all patients on blood thinners are “‘set up with effective management,’” wrote Landro, quoting Dr. Sandeep Mangalmurti, a cardiologist.knee PT
  • Follow up is also crucial in knee and hip replacement cases where patients don’t “adhere to a treatment plan or keep follow-up appointments.” A third of cases involved injury as a result. One doctor and his group use a mobile app to send reminders to patients about making appointments and follow-up procedures.

By the end of the article we read that improved communications between doctors and patients is paramount. To that I must add a loud “duh.” Isn’t this a tall order in a system in which patients see a doctor for minutes a visit and often a different doctor each time?

  • Doctor checkup reminderDoesn’t a lot of what the doctors found went wrong repeatedly seem like what common sense should have prevented?
  • Would you be less likely to start a medical malpractice suit if you felt the physician and his/her team had done everything possible to care for you or a loved one?
  • Have you ever felt that a health care professional treated you or a loved one indifferently—that you were lucky nothing tragic happened as a result?
  • Have you heard of initiatives that take advantage of such date, like these?

Doctor communicating

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4 Responses to “Service of Learning from Costly Medical Mistakes”

  1. Hank Goldman Said:

    Sorry, but I have just a two word answer to this weeks question:

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Chilling. Joan is one of the 250,000/year deaths that happen because of medical error. We’re all equal when under the knife.

  3. hb Said:

    To answer your questions:

    1. Yes. You are right; common sense is lacking. For example: Cut out the insurance companies, the bureaucracy and the paperwork. You would save as much as 40% of the cost of health care. Realize that we cannot all afford the best of all possible care. Most of us can get by with less.

    2. I dislike shyster lawyers in principle. Therefore, I would never start a malpractice law suit.

    3. Yes. I have received shabby, actually sadistic, treatment in an otherwise great hospital. I reported it, but declined to go further because issues of race were involved and it was not worth the consequent aggravation to pursue the matter. I survived.

    4. No, and I am skeptical as to whether the consequent benefit is sufficient to justify cost involved in obtaining it.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You make a different point than the one I had in mind regarding common sense. It seemed to me, for example, that if a doctor can see that a baby is very large, whether or not the mother has a weight problem, he/she might predict a problem at birth so discuss options with the future parents. Why wait until you run into a problem and injure the baby?

    As for having a doctor check to see if something is left behind in a sutured wound, I can’t imagine why anyone would do otherwise, especially if a hospital noticed repeated trouble as a result of having a procedure done by people with less experience than a doctor. And patients should ALWAYS be told, encouraged and reassured to return if they don’t feel well after a procedure. Goodness gracious!

    I have seen nasty attitudes by healthcare staffers of all ages and races and sexes. It is more awkward when several races are involved because we all walk on eggshells when this happens. Regardless, if you need to return to the hospital, just your luck if that nurse or aid is on your floor and you’ve made a grump!

    If something happened as a result of careless treatment that cost me more money than I have to get fixed, I might have to resort to suing. It would also alert the crew not to make the same mistake and injure someone else. Suing takes a lot of time and causes tremendous stress. It is the last resort.

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