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Equipment failure common cause of surgical errors

While advancements in medical science and technology have undoubtedly improved the quality of health care in the United States, it has not been without its drawbacks. Maryland readers may be interested to learn about a recent study published in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety, an international peer-reviewed journal dedicated to improving patient safety, on technology and equipment issues and surgical errors.

As technology becomes an increasingly important part of surgical specialties, equipment and technological issues have become a common cause of medical errors. According to the study mentioned above, equipment failure accounts for nearly one quarter of all errors that take place during a typical operation. The number is even larger for operations that rely heavily on technology, like heart surgery.

To reduce the rate of technological errors, the study's authors suggest the use of a pre-operative checklist-based system. The researchers found that the introduction of simple, pre-emptive procedures, including routine equipment checks, briefing tools and training programs for hospital and surgical staff could reduce the surgical error rates by half. This is a huge reduction in errors for relatively common- sense procedures.

If someone is injured in surgery due to a technological or equipment error the hospital or doctors involved may be liable for medical malpractice. While there are many reasons that a machine may fail during any given procedure, if the failure is due to something preventable, including a failure in oversight or hospital supervision, the patient may be entitled to compensation for their physical and their emotional injuries.

Technology helps to save lives on a daily basis. But when it comes to surgery, technology is only as good as the people who are using it.

Source: FOX News, "1 in 4 surgery errors due to technology problems," Bahar Gholipour, July 26, 2013

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