Medical errors are often more harrowing for the patient than the ailment itself. Read about the causes of medical errors in the following article.
Surgeons must be very careful
When they take the knife!
Underneath their fine incisions
Stirs the Culprit – Life!
~ Emily Dickinson
I would have juxtaposed the “To err is human…” quote alongside the above quote with reference to the issue of medical errors but the only thing that’s stopping me is the fact that the platform of commission of a medical error is LIFE. That just makes things a little complicated as when it comes to life, the error in question – irrespective of its magnitude – alone matters; no matter how good, the intentions fail to stand their ground!
The thing with medical errors is that more often than not, they cause more damage to the patient than the initial ailment itself, as these errors either lead to other afflictions or worsen the existing condition. The following segment elaborates the various types and causes of medical errors.
Types and Causes of Medical Errors
Medical errors can be broadly classified under two distinct categories – misdiagnosis and human error committed as a result of carelessness or oversight. Both can lead to undesirable, often serious health consequences. Imagine a patient who is diagnosed as suffering from reflex sympathetic dystrophy but in reality, the actual affliction is fibromyalgia (both conditions exhibit closely similar symptoms)!
This misdiagnosis will lead to mistreatment which will not help the patient’s condition; on the contrary, this can even make things worse for him! Imagine another case – a doctor prescribes a drug which sounds very similar to another, both being used to treat radically different conditions. Take Vioxx and Zyvox for instance. The former is an NSAID while the latter is an antibiotic! Now, won’t taking the wrong drug make matters worse for the patient? That being said, following are some of the most common causes that lead to medical errors:-
Procedural and Technological Complexities
Complex health care technologies, multiple procedures and complicated laboratory tests and insufficient training and diligence in handling and managing these factors often leads to misdiagnosis which is the most common reason behind the commission of medical errors. Also, poor communication systems, inefficient process designs, infrastructure failure and unstable apparatus performance and backup are often the causal agents for such errors.
Education, Experience and Training
Insufficient and incompetent educational qualifications in the field of medicine and health care, coupled with below par academic and field training invariably leads to professional incompetence that leads to a lot of errors on the part of health care professionals. Instances of misdiagnosis, wrong treatment and inability to identify and acknowledge the gravity of medical errors is a common cause that encourages the prevalence of such errors.
Human Factors and Working Conditions
Human factors and ergonomic conditions such as fatigue, work pressure, sleep deprivation, stress, increase in the number of patients and an inverse proportion of health care staff, are some of the most common factors that contribute to the occurrence and prevalence of medical errors.
These errors cannot always to be blamed upon the incompetency of the health care professionals or unsuitability of the medical system or infrastructure. Statistics indicate that an equally large number of medical errors are caused by carelessness on the part of patients to follow up on their tests and appointments, and failure to report any abnormal developments on time. Awareness, diligence and discipline on the patient’s part to follow up on his treatment and stick to appointments contribute a lot towards prevention of medical errors.
In case of carelessness on part of medical health care professionals, filing medical malpractice lawsuits is an effective remedy and damages can be claimed by the suffering patient. However, no amount of monetary compensation can ease the physical discomfort and mental agony that the patient had to undergo go due to the carelessness of a physician, or owing to the inefficient system procedures of a health care institution. Playing with life is something that is not acceptable under any circumstances, and no amount of justifications or compensation is sufficient to make up for any type of medical blunder.