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Medical Technology Errors That Could Lead to a Medical Malpractice Suit

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Medical Technology Errors That Could Lead to a Medical Malpractice Suit

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Medical malpractice is not inevitable. It blights patients’ lives and that of their families, ruins the careers of medical professionals from nurses to doctors and surgeons and costs the nation billions of dollars every year. The medical errors of judgment that can lead to exhausting and expensive medical malpractice lawsuits are well known. All it takes is for those in the medical profession and the institutions they work in to address them.

The ECRI is one organization that regularly assesses and reports on the most pressing concerns in patient safety. The following is a brief summary of what the ECRI considers 5 of the most pressing medical technology hazards that they have identified this year.

Being aware of these hazards as a patient may allow you to avoid being harmed by a potential case of medical negligence, or it may allow you to be more informed about your legal options if you are the victim of negligence. If in doubt, seek advice from an experienced legal nurse consultant.

Hazard #1 Inadequate endoscope sterilization

The use of endoscopes has revolutionized much surgery. Endoscopes are used to ‘see’ into parts of the body with minimum intrusiveness and allow certain surgical procedures to be carried out. The hazard identified by the ECRI is the failure to thoroughly clean and sterilize endoscopes after their use. Endoscopes that hold even tiny amounts of body tissue and possibly infected material can be a real risk when used again on another patient altogether. Even when left in non-sterile surroundings, the hollow interior of endoscopes can become a breeding ground for potentially dangerous pathogens.

Hazard  #2 Failure to use sterile mattresses

Few hospitals fail to change mattress covers after being used by one patient and before another patient uses the same bed, but a significant hazard exists when the same standard of cleanliness is not used with the underlying mattress itself. Infected body tissue can penetrate past the mattress cover and into the surface of the mattress itself, only to remain a potential source of infection for the next patient.

Hazard #3 Failure to monitor radiation overexposure

Overexposure to radiation can lead to radiation burns and cancer. Radiation exposure is not always strictly monitored whenever a patient is taken for tests that employ radiation techniques, like digital imaging technology. The failure to effectively monitor radiation exposure can result from poor communication between health care providers, both internally and externally.

Hazard # 4 Improper use of barcode medication administration (BCMA)

BCMA is a double edged sword. It was designed to reduce or prevent dosage administration errors, but when not used correctly, can lead to the opposite. The method works by scanning the correct medication prescribed to an individual patient before administering it. The hazards in its improper use come from failing to scan the barcodes in advance of preparing medication, not scanning a patient’s wristband, but scanning code from a list attached to a patient’s bed instead and getting confused when medications are prepared for several patients at the same time. The underlying issues may be due to overworked nursing staff, inadequate staffing numbers or lack of adequate training.

Hazard # 5 Unsafe holstering of ESU active-electrode pencils

Electrosurgical unit active-electrode pencils are supposed to be safely holstered while not in use. Failure to do this diligently can lead to injuries to patients when the tip of the pencil inadvertently touches a patient’s body. It could cause burns and can even lead to a fire if the pencil is accidentally activated by either a member of staff or the patient. This can happen quite easily as the pencil is activated simply by leaning on it or by stepping on the foot switch.

The list of hazards as indicated is by no means complete. However, all hazards should be well known by medical staff. There is no excuse for dirty mattresses or surgical equipment, just as there is no excuse for misdiagnosis due to incomplete testing or practicing surgery on the wrong patient. The ability for a patient to sue a medical professional or institution for these sorts of errors may be the only way that the message gets across that patient safety should be everyone’s priority in the medical profession.

Med League is a legal nurse consulting firm serving attorneys nationwide and provides highly-qualified medical technology expert witness as well as other Medical Experts Witness who can review your case. Contact Med League on your next case where you require the expert witness to review, evaluate and analyze the standards of care and care plan associated with your case!

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