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Wrong patient, wrong treatment: How faulty patient identification can lead to malpractice.

On Behalf of | Sep 27, 2016 | Medical Malpractice

It seems simple. Doctors, nurses and other hospital employees should know who they are treating before they provide treatment. Unfortunately, and with sometimes tragic results, this is not always the case. According to a study released by the ECRI Institute, hospitals make thousands of errors based on patient identification every year.

Researchers looked at 7.613 identification errors at 181 health care facilities over a two and a half year period. The sheer number of identification errors shows just how big this problem is. Thankfully, 91% of these errors did not harm patients. With this said, one can reasonably assume that there are tens of thousands of patient identification errors every year. A small number of these errors will cause injury or death. Among the errors listed in the study include:

  • Hospital staff did not try to resuscitate a patient undergoing cardiac arrest, as staff confused this patient with another who had a do-not-resuscitate order
  • A baby was given breast milk from the wrong mother and contracted hepatitis

These and other mistakes breach the duty of care each hospital has to a patient, and are clear examples of malpractice.

How can hospitals prevent this problem?

Even though medical records and hospital systems are complex, the good thing is that hospitals can take many easy steps to reduce the number of identification errors. For instance, only 1 in 5 hospitals use patient photos. Simply requiring a picture on hospital records will eliminate errors, as busy staff can look at the picture and match it to the patient before delivering treatment. Another relatively simple fix is for staffers to identify patients by name, rather than by a room or bed number. While medical records and hospital systems are increasingly complex, there is no excuse for hospitals not to know who they are treating.

Anyone injured by medical malpractice, or any family who has lost a loved one due to medical malpractice needs to work closely with experienced lawyers. The injury lawyers of Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor provide skilled, tough representation to individuals and families across Delaware.

Source: Medical Record Mix-Ups a Common Problem, Study Finds, Wall Street Journal, September 25, 2016, by Melinda Beck