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Preventable medical mistakes are third cause of death in U.S.

Medical mistakes happen far too often in the United States. In fact, from Maryland to Washington, rarely a day goes by that there isn't a story about a patient either tragically injured or fatally killed due to a simple and preventable medial error caused by hospital negligence or doctor error. What is worse is that it seems as if many hospital and healthcare institutions appear to tolerate staff that ignore even the most basic and proven safety procedures such as sanitation and communication.

According to studies, one of the primary reasons for preventable medical errors and other serious injuries in healthcare facilities is poor communication. In fact some suggest that nearly 75 percent of all preventable medical errors are the result of communication errors and bad teamwork. Nevertheless, the industry does not seem to be making any movement toward improving basic teamwork or communication skills, a form of training that is common in other major industries for staff at all levels.

If breakdowns in teamwork and communication were not bad enough, studies also suggest that about 50 percent of workers in the healthcare industry do not clean their hands, despite the fact that infection is a serious and common cause of patient harm. In addition, simple and proven protections such as checklists that would help protect against wrong-site surgery and other preventable harms fail to be implemented by hospitals on an almost regularly basis.

With around 440,000 patients losing their lives each year due to preventable and unnecessary mistakes in hospitals and healthcare facilities throughout the U.S., such behavior is intolerable. If, however, someone is killed or injured due to medical negligence, such as those cited above, it is possible to hold those responsible accountable for their actions.

Source: Valley News, "Column: A Way to Prevent Lethal Medical Errors," Suzanne Gordon, March 6, 2014

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