A reduction in the number of hospital emergency rooms over the past several years has created more strain on remaining emergency departments, the National Center for Health Statistics reports. This has led to crowding, a hectic pace and more chances for doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to commit emergency room errors.
A study published recently by the Journal of the American Medical Association says that nearly half of all medical malpractice-related deaths are due to ER errors.
Regardless of their workload, medical staff members are legally obligated to avoid mistakes by not rushing or cutting corners while diagnosing and treating emergency room patients. If you have been injured or a loved one of yours has died because of an ER error in a South Carolina medical center, you should consult an experienced malpractice lawyer.
Joye Law Firm’s ER malpractice lawyers have offices in Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Clinton, and Columbia and are ready to help clients from anywhere in South Carolina.
Common Emergency Room Mistakes
The American Academy of Emergency Medicine says a Harvard Medical Practice study regarded as “the pioneering study on medical errors and injury” found that the emergency department had the highest proportion of adverse events due to negligence of any area of the hospital.
The American Academy of Emergency Medicine also says emergency clinicians spend two-thirds of their time managing three or more patients and are interrupted 9.7 times per hour. Another study published by the Journal of Experimental Psychology says that even momentary, seconds-long interruptions can derail an individual’s train of thought and lead to errors.
Yet another study, this one in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine, says that peer pressure in emergency departments has decreased the length of time patients spend in the ER and increased the rate of discharges.
Various sources state that the most frequently encountered emergency room errors are:
- Misdiagnosis. ER doctors and nurses frequently miss signs of serious illness because they don’t take the time to properly assess a patient’s symptoms and vital signs. Heart attacks, in which the main symptom is often chest pain, are among the most commonly missed diagnoses in emergency rooms. Other frequently missed diagnoses include meningitis, a bacterial infection marked by headache, fever and dizziness; and appendicitis, which has symptoms that include pain in the upper abdomen, nausea and fever.
- Communication errors. Poor communication in an ER includes not listening to a patient’s medical complaint, not thoroughly questioning patients about their symptoms and medical history and “handoff errors.” A handoff error occurs when a patient’s care is transferred from one doctor, nurse or other care provider to another provider, and important information about the patient is not conveyed to the second care provider.
- Testing errors. Failing to order necessary tests or incorrectly analyzing or understanding test or lab results can lead to a missed or incorrect diagnosis and incorrect treatment.
- Medication errors. This includes failure to order prescribed medicine, ordering but not giving the patient prescribed medications, improper delays in obtaining and administering medication, prescribing or administering the wrong medication and administering medication in the wrong dosage. If an ER doctor or nurse failed to obtain a proper medical history, a patient may have an adverse reaction to a medicine because of other medicines they are taking or a physical condition they have.
- Policy and procedure errors. An Institute of Medicine study found that 90 percent of hospital deaths attributable to medical errors are due to the fact that systems and procedures were not followed. In some cases, policies and procedures do not exist or are poorly written and confusing, and it may be the hospital or medical center itself that is liable for ER injuries.
Regardless of the workload or the pace required of an emergency room staff to keep up, errors such as those cited above should not be automatically forgiven if a patient has been harmed. Our South Carolina emergency room malpractice lawyers can help you determine whether a case of medical malpractice or medical negligence exists and a legal claim may be pursued.
Such a claim would require proving that a medical professional or a medical center’s policies and procedures fell short of the standard of care in the treatment of their patient due to a failure to act or an action that constituted an error.
The investigation of an emergency room malpractice case requires gathering documents pertaining to all tests, procedures, prescriptions and medicines administered during the patient’s visit to the ER. These must be reviewed and assessed by medical personnel working for the legal team. The lawyers involved must have a thorough knowledge of South Carolina medical malpractice law to make a persuasive case for a finding of emergency room malpractice.
Contact a South Carolina ER Malpractice Lawyer
If you believe a visit to the emergency room resulted in further harm to you or a loved one, our medical malpractice lawyers at Joye Law Firm may be able to help you seek compensation for your pain and suffering and additional medical expenses. We can investigate your case and provide a fair and honest assessment of your options for a legal claim. If our emergency room malpractice lawyers believe we can successfully pursue a claim for you, we will work diligently to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.
- National Center for Health Statistics – National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2006 Emergency Department Summary
- American Academy of Emergency Medicine – Medical Errors and Injury in Emergency Medicine
- Journal of Experimental Psychology – Momentary Interruptions Can Derail The Train Of Thought
- The American Journal of Emergency Medicine –
- Institute of Medicine – To Err is Human: Building a Safer Heath System