Hospital Malpractice - New Protective Steps for Patients

Joint Commission Safety Guidelines

Hospital malpractice occurs when a staff member, which can be a doctor or any hospital employee), is negligent or engages in improper conduct in the treatment of a patient resulting in patient harm. According the Joint Commission of hospital accreditation estimated that 40 mistakes are made each week in U. S. hospitals, which include things like ordering procedures on the wrong patient, operating on the wrong site, making medication errors, and so on.

I could certainly fill up this article with medical horror stories, but many hospitals have made important changes to ensure patient safety and the Joint Commission also has a new set of guidelines for 2012. If a hospital wants to keep their accreditation, which is necessary to keep the door open, the safety goals must be followed. For example, two ways must be used to identify patients, for example a patient’s name and date of birth is checked before a procedure or receiving medication.

Palm Scanner

Baptist Medical Center, Jacksonville, FL Picture from pamphlet
Baptist Medical Center, Jacksonville, FL Picture from pamphlet

New Patient Security Measures

Many hospitals are taking numerous steps to prevent medical mistakes and patient safety is a primary goal. Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville, FL is instituting a new measure to insure patient security by installing palm scanners. Palm scanner has already been used in several banks in Japan, in hospitals in South Carolina and Florida, and at Duke University. The palm scanners have several benefit including:

  • Avoiding cases of mistaken identity and patient errors.
  • Ensuring that the right patient is receiving care by avoiding duplication of records or patients with the same name.
  • Protecting against identity theft.
  • Patient satisfaction is also improved by eliminating the need to ask so many questions which speeds up the registration process after the palm print image.

How a Palm Scanner Works

Palm scanning is effective since each individual has a unique vein pattern under the skin of his or her palms. The veins are scanned by near-infrared rays, which are then encrypted and stored in our electronic medical records. Even patient with the same name or in the same family have different vein patterns, therefore, the chance of patient duplication in records is eliminated.

The U. S. Centers for Disease Control considers the scanners in the same classification, as door knows, which means that can be effectively cleaned with hand sanitizers.

Hospitalized Patient

Source

What You Can do as a Patient

Patients need to be aware of methods to protect themselves from medical mistakes and infections. The primary way to achieve this goal is to be very observant as a patient or a family member. Remember it is your body and you can refuse any medication or procedure if for some reason you are not comfortable with the order.

For instance:

  1. Make sure you give your name, date of birth and the surgery you are scheduled for to every doctor, nurse or technician in the hospital prior to the surgery. This might seem extreme, but it is always better to protect yourself.
  2. If a patient is having surgery, particularly on a limb, the hospital is required to mark that limb. If that is not done, ask one of the caretakers to do so.
  3. Be aware of your prescribed medications and what they look like. If the nurse is giving you an unfamiliar medication make sure you ask what it is and which doctor ordered it. It is your body and you do not have to take a medication just because it is handed to you.
  4. If you have a wound that requires a dressing change and the caregiver does not wash their hands, refuse to let them look at the dressing. This holds true for doctors as well.
  5. If you have a procedure ordered make sure you doctor explains the purpose of the procedure or test.
  6. If any caregiver appears to have a cold, is sneezing, etc., request they wear a mask and gloves when they are in your room.
  7. It is important to be clear about personal details. If a medical personal pronounces your name incorrectly or even uses the wrong name, speak up. Often a patient will just assume the person just made a mistake, but you cannot afford to assume this is true.
  8. If you are entering the hospital for a planned procedure or surgery, try to become informed as to exactly what will be done and what to expect for recovery. If the doctor doesn’t explain it in an understandable fashion, the Internet has a wealth of information.

Hospital Safety: You are Part of Your Healthcare Team | HealthWatchMD

In Conclusion

If the worse does happen and you are harmed by something that happens in the hospital, you do have the right to consult hospital malpractice lawyers. People generally think if they get to the hospital that the doctor takes care of the rest, but that is not a safe assumption. While the bulk of the time this is true, doctors are only human and humans occasionally make mistakes.

We might ask what is patient safety? Safety is the responsibility of everyone who works in a hospital and even the patients, or if the patient is incapacitated the family can also play an important role.

© 2012 Pamela Oglesby

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Comments 26 comments

Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 4 years ago from Texas

These are good things to hear. Most folks do not even consider it until the doctor is telling them that they are going for surgery...then the panic of "what if" sets upon them. People in the medical industry can make such a difference. I have been there and saw it first hand during my father's illness. There were those who really cared; followed proper procedure and protocol and then there were the others that we had to watch so closely as they just ran through their shifts. Mistakes are human nature thus they are going to happen but we must have industries which work to minimize them to the greatest degree. I wonder if there will come a day when doctors receive unexpected tests for drug or alcohol just like airline pilots prior to a scheduled flight. Lives are on the line in both cases. Good write...thanks for sharting. WB


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Wayne, Being an RN, plus I have had many health problems I agree the quality of the care by nurses, doctors, medical assistants can all make a huge difference in the outcome for the patient, which you witnessed with your father. I did work for a while in a teaching hospital and it was suspected that one of the interns was stealing narcotics. They did make him get tested and he was kicked out of the program. My mother had a horrible doctor at one time and when he visited her in the evening we could smell alcohol on him one time.

I don't thing they will do unexpected tests for alcohol or drugs anytime soon for doctors or pilots and they don't for nurses either unless they get stuck with a needle. Then they test for aids, hepatitis and I think drugs. Thanks so much for your comments Wayne. Always appreciated.


Mekenzie profile image

Mekenzie 4 years ago from Michigan

My son almost went to surgery by mistake. We walked in as they were taking him out of the room. I asked where they were going. They said they were taking him for surgery on his foot. I said, you have the wrong boy, he doesn't have anything wrong with his foot. They went to check and found it was supposed to be the little boy who was his roommate. Whew .. that was a close call!

Great Hub Pamela with very good information.

Mekenzie


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Mekenzie, I hate to hear that these types of things still happen, even if they are short staffed there is no excuse for careless mistakes. Thank you so much for your comments.


bankscottage profile image

bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

As an anesthesiologist, whose job is frequently compared to that of a pilot, I would welcome regular or random drug tests. I had to do them when I was in the military (like all military personnel, not just in healthcare). I have nothing to worry about so I would be glad to do it. I think it would only add to my credibility and reputation. I wouldn't even mind if they would put the results on my ID badge (like some states do with health inspections in restaurants). I am ok with personal responsibility. I don't think it should just be limited to physicians though.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

bankscottage, I appreciate your comments and I agree that if there is testing it should cover all employees. I think testing is a good idea.


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 4 years ago from Jamaica

When I had my last surgery done, I caught a hospital infection which was due to negligence on the part of the operating team. I was too traumatized mentally to think clearly but I later understand that I could have taken action against the hospital.

Thanks for sharing this Pamela.


Cari Jean profile image

Cari Jean 4 years ago from Bismarck, ND

Pamela - excellent hub w/ some very good advice. Too many people just assume that doctors and nurses don't make mistakes or they don't think something like have an operation on the wrong limb could happen to them.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Cardisa, The same thing happened to my mother. Due to her age and the way the laws are written in FL no one wanted to take her case as it wasn't enough money despite the fact that she ended up having her lower leg amputated. That is why I believe strongly that we need to be well informed. Thanks for your comments.

Cari Jean, You are exactly right. I appreciate your comments.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

This is great Pamela. The palm scanner is completely new to me, what a marvelous idea. This is a very useful piece. Thank you..


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

This is a step in the right direction but I spent almost four years going through nightmare after nightmare with my mother...in hospital, nursing homes, anywhere she was and she ended up dead after two heart attacks in one day from a nursing home taking her off an important medicine to save money. Of course they didn't pay and how many don't? It was almost a conscious effort it seemed to me to abuse and mistreat her and she was a quiet and meek as any person could be. There has to be some reason so many are so heartless.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

always exploring, Thank you so much for your comments.

Jackie Lynnley, I hate to know that people in the health field can be so uncaring as your experience sounds awful. I'm sorry that she had such an awful experience and it sounds like the staff wasn't really qualified also. During the year my mother was in hospitals and nursing homes she had the occasional uncaring nurse, but for the most part she had excellent care. I appreciate your sharing your experience.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 4 years ago

Safety is a joint effort on the part of the doctor, the staff, the patient and the family. Patients should never be afraid to ask questions and double check everything. To do otherwise is to risk harm. This is an important and helpful hub, Pamela and voted just that way.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

BPOP, I agree that safety is absolutely a joint effort and I appreciate your comments.


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

You have written an excellent reminder for everyone, Pamela, of the importance of being aware and following up on hospital and/or nursing home care. There are uncaring folks in every industry but they are particularly dangerous when they work in the health field. The palm scanner seems like a step in the right direction.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

drbj, I was impressed with the palm scanner as it should protect our identities and keep our medical records accurate. Thank you for your comments.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

This was great news from you. As a patience we have right to get the best treatment from the hospital. But sometimes we don't aware that something dangerous haunted us, like: hospital malpractice. Thanks to remind us about this. Pamela, I learn many things from you. Good job and voted up!

Blessing,


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

prasetio, It is always good to hear from you my friend. Thank you so much for your comments. Blessing to you also.


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

Interesting read. Personal safety is a unique problem in today's medical facilities. The solutions are always problematic, but having an advocate by one's side can be a help. Glad to see this topic highlighted because the rules are important. It should generate more interesting comments from people who have experienced the consequences of medical professionals thinking the rules are different for them. By the same token, there are great medical professionals who have to put up with sorry co-workers and patients who are mostly interested in getting attention. I've watched scenarios play out that just boggle the mind!


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

RTalloni, I agree and appreciate your comments. As a nurse I have seen some of the same scenarios. I think an advocate is most important.


AnnaCia profile image

AnnaCia 4 years ago

Very important points to take into consideration. I am a strong believer of being part of my healthcare team. There have been situations when the professionals are reluctant to what I have to say, which says a lot about their professionalism. I like your hub a lot. Very useful.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

AnnaCia, I am also a strong believer in being part of the healthcare team. Thank you for your comments.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

The stories are shocking with incorrect limbs being operated on and now the patient needs to mark the area of their body before surgery. The palm scanner is a great idea! Now if they could do something about not making their patients sicker while they are in the hospital. I truly hope never to be a patient in any hospital. Outpatient services are becoming more popular and work for me! Excellent hub Pam. I will be sure and share:)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

Sunshine, I think outpatient procedures are always preferable when possible. Infections are such a huge hospital problem. Thank you for your comments.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

This is important information Pamela99. Mistakes happen and when it is a medical one the results can be disastrous. I like the idea of a palm scanner, since much of the time patients are under medication that makes them confused or forgetful. That leaves less protection through checking a second source of ID. I hope you won't mind if I link this one to my hub about hospitals. :)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States Author

PegCole, I agree about the palm scanner and I certainly don't mind if you use this link. I appreciate your comments.

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