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Strategies for reducing medical error rates


Oregon residents might know that heart disease and cancer are among top causes of death in the nation. However, they might be surprised that they are closely followed on the list by medical mistakes. There are various settings in which errors could occur, and another surprising fact is that physicians’ offices are most likely to be the locations at which medical errors occur. With the rates at such high levels, it is important to consider the best strategies for reducing these numbers.

If medical errors are compared to issues such as airplane crashes, the investigation and problem solving in each incident might be much more intense. In the airline industry, such strategies have greatly improved safety records. In the medical industry, effective reporting could support better understanding of causes when errors happen. More effective changes as a patient is handed off from one team to another could also facilitate a better record of successful outcomes. Involving pharmacists in decisions about a patient’s treatment might reduce hospital errors related to medications. Particular attention to infections through improved protocols and oversight could also reduce medical errors that have potentially lethal implications.

The issues of diagnosis and medical records also play a key role in medical mistakes. When electronic records with different providers and entities are not interoperable, for example, it could be difficult to obtain information about allergies, serious conditions, or other areas of importance in treating a patient. Failing to consult others in a difficult case could also leave an opening for erroneous diagnosis or treatment.

Not all negative outcomes are necessarily medical malpractice. However, a decision to take legal action against a provider might be warranted in an instance involving a delayed or missed diagnosis. In such cases, serious or permanent injuries resulting from slow action on the part of a provider might be supported by medical records and the expert opinions of other medical professionals.