From misreading lab values to operating on the wrong surgical site, common medical mistakes can lead to serious bodily injury or even death. Whether someone is just beginning his or her medical training or he or she is a respected leader in the field, he or she will likely make a mistake at some point. Even though some medical mistakes may be inevitable, there are still steps that the hospital team can take to minimize patient harm.
Let the Patient and Family Know
A number of health care professionals fear discussing the mistake with the patient’s friends and family. In reality, a patient’s loved ones would prefer to have an honest, open relationship with the medical team. In fact, families are less likely to file medical malpractice lawsuits if they are promptly and honestly notified of serious medical mistakes. In addition, practitioners are ethically obligated to let their patients and patients’ loved ones know of any significant clinical oversights.
Notify the Entire Care Team
When a physician tells the rest of a patient’s care team of the error, he or she is admitting to his or her own fallibility. This admission can result in the rest of the team changing the predetermined patient-care plan. Even though a doctor may not want to admit his or her mistake to his or her colleagues, he or she needs to communicate the error with the rest of the team. This allows the overall patient-care team to handle any significant negative patient outcomes and actively work to prevent similar mistakes in the future.
Document the Error
Every medical error needs to be appropriately documented and reported to the hospital-safety committee. This helps draws attention to needed improvements in hospital safety measures, which helps promote overall patient well-being.
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