Surgical errors pose significant risk to patients

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With the recent media coverage surrounding the presence of Ebola in a select few U.S. cities, many in Tennessee might think that there is a significant risk of encountering the disease while seeking treatment in area hospitals. In reality, however, the risk of contracting Ebola is incredibly low, while there are other dangers that pose a far greater threat. Surgical errors are among these dangers, and anyone who is preparing for a surgical procedure should be aware of the track record for the chosen medical facility.

Statistics suggest that as many as one third of all patients will be subjected to some form of medical error during a hospital stay. These errors include medication mistakes, surgical errors and other types of injury. In the past, it was difficult to find information on an individual hospital’s track record in regard to medical errors. However, a nonprofit company known as Leapfrog Group has compiled statistics on the rate of medical errors for hospitals across the nation. This information is presented in the form of a Hospital Safety Score.

Patients who want to learn more about the hospital they have chosen for a given medical procedure can access this information online at hospitalsafetyscore.org. By understanding the rate of medical errors, patients and their families can make an informed decision on which facility to choose. It may also be helpful to look at the statistic for previous years, which can indicate whether a facility is improving or declining.

Even though the overall risk of surgical errors and other medical mistakes is relatively low, Tennessee patients and their families should be aware of the possibility of encountering one of these types of errors. It is not always easy for those outside of the medical profession to tell when a negative outcome is a result of surgical errors or unavoidable complications. For those who suspect that they or a loved one may have been victim to a medical error, it is important to learn more about the legal options available.

Source: AARP, “Beyond Ebola — How Safe Is Your Hospital?“, Elizabeth Agnvall, Oct. 29, 2014