It is a scary time to be a healthcare patient in the U.S. Ever since researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine revealed in 2016 that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in America, the dangers associated with being a patient have received increased media coverage. While it is critically important for patients to be aware of these hazards and risks, it is also unnerving to have a strong sense that the decisions healthcare providers make often can’t be trusted.
There are two primary reasons why learning about the dangers that patients face every day is important, even if it is difficult information to mentally digest. First, understanding common healthcare-related risks helps to ensure that patients can effectively advocate on behalf of themselves and their loved ones whenever they are in a situation that could involve an elevated chance of something going wrong. Second, understanding common complications and error types can empower patients to seek legal guidance in the event that they suffer harm related to their care.
In service of these goals – in addition to the hope that shining a light on common patient safety concerns will lead to meaningful reforms within the healthcare industry – various independent organizations track data related to patient safety on a regular basis. Their insights can assist patients and providers alike in cultivating a world in which it is safer to be a patient.
What Are the Top Concerns of the Moment?
As an experienced medical malpractice lawyer – including those who practice at Ward & Ward Law Firm – can confirm, there are few healthcare scenarios that do not risk patient harm in any way, shape or form. Most interactions with a provider – from filling a prescription to getting an x-ray – could be harmful if the circumstances in question unfold in a certain way. However, there are scenarios that place patients at an inherently heightened risk of incurring harm than others.
Some of these scenarios are chronic – for example, medication errors happen around the U.S. every day. These chronic scenarios deserve attention because they are problems that aren’t going away. Others, like ECRI’s “top 10 biggest patient safety challenges” list – which is published annually – illuminate trends in patient safety which (whether they are chronic or newly emerging in nature) are “going the wrong way.”
To that end, ECRI’s top 10 list for 2023 include:
- Maternal and infant care challenges
- Delays in identifying and treating sepsis
- Providers who reach beyond “their scope of practice or competencies”
- Poor coordination of care for patients who have complex medical challenges
- Medication safety
- “Missed” care or treatment that results in preventable harm
When releasing this list, ECRI observed that the healthcare staffing shortage is exacerbating each of these problems. So, even though better staffing ratios won’t fix these issues, that is one way that the industry is hoping to mitigate the scope of the challenges at hand.