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Chicago Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Are Doctors Distracted By Mobile Technology?

tablet.jpgWe live in a day and age when the advances in technology are having a profound effect on how well doctors and hospitals can treat us and keep us healthy. Tablet computers and smartphones give doctors incredible access to information and tools to help them be better doctors. At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dr. Henry Feldman says that mobile technology lets him do everything he could do if he was sitting at his desktop at the patient's bedside. Some things he couldn't easily do without mobile technology, like showing patients impressive new animated apps, diagrams, medical records and even photos from their own surgeries as they recover.

Examples like Dr. Feldman have encouraged hospitals and doctors offices to invest in mobile technology to improve patient care and reduce medical errors.  This technology is improving the care patients receive by providing instant access to case studies, patient data and drug information. However, the increased adoption of mobile technology has had a concerning side-effect, a rise in distracted doctors and medical staff. Given the amount of distraction mobile devices cause elsewhere (driving, meetings, family time, etc...) it is no surprise that we find it having an impact in hospitals. In 2011 a case study by Dr. John Halamka detailed an incident in which a personal text distracted a resident from completing a drug order to stop giving a 56-year-old man a blood thinner he was on. When the man required open heart surgery later that mistake was almost fatal.

When doctors lose count, patients pay the price

surgicaltools.jpgWhen people go to the hospital for a surgical procedure, there is the expectation that doctors and nurses will treat every patient with a standard level of care. Of course there is the possibility of a complication arising before, during or after any procedure, but we put faith in the skills and judgment of the people treating us.

However, despite years of training and education, surgeons and surgical nurses can still make mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes stem from the complicated nature of a procedure, but other times a mistake is made simply because someone lost count. This is often the case when a sponge or medical tool is left inside a patient after an operation.

Can the Airline Industry Teach Hospitals how to Prevent Fires in the Operating Room?

checklist.jpgA fire in the operating room is probably the last thing on any patient's mind on the day they go in for surgery. It is also probably the last thing on their surgeon's mind as well and understandably so. Atul Gawande an author and Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School says "Our great struggle in medicine these days is not just with ignorance and uncertainty... It's also with complexity: how much you have to make sure you have in your head and think about. There are a thousand ways things can go wrong." Fires in the operating are considered rare*(between 500-600/year) but when they do occur they can be catastrophic for patients.

Unfortunately for victims these are catastrophes that could be avoided if hospitals would simply require surgical teams to run through a fire risk checklist as part of their pre-op routine. According to Mark Bruley, V.P. Accident/Forensic Investigation for ECRI, "If it's on a checklist then it tends to be dealt with on each and every surgical case. . . and that helps increase awareness.

Tubal ligation error cited in Illinois medical malpractice suit

OR.jpgParents will go to great lengths to make sure that a child is safe and healthy, and this can mean that they will have to make some very difficult decisions. Recently, two Illinois parents made the decision not to have any more children, as there was a very strong chance that any baby they would have would suffer from sickle cell anemia. They already had three children, including one who was born with the disease.

In order to prevent future pregnancies, the parents agreed that the mother would undergo a tubal ligation procedure. The surgery should have been an effective sterilization solution, but the parents learned that the woman was pregnant six months after the operation. The child was born with sickle cell disease.

Citing a serious surgical error, the parents are now pursuing damages for the wrongful pregnancy and for the "extraordinary expenses" that will likely be required to care for their youngest child.

Illinois nursing home neglect may outstrip hospital errors

nursinghome1.jpgHospitals have been the focus of most patient safety studies, like a 2010 Department of Health and Human Services report that estimated substandard hospital care was responsible for 180,000 patient deaths annually. Federal officials also have been concerned about standards of care outside hospitals. A new Medicare report suggests medical malpractice is widespread.

Cook County skilled nursing facilities provide rehabilitative and other services for patients discharged from acute care hospitals. Ninety percent of the nation's 15,000 skilled nursing facilities also offer extended nursing home care. If the Medicare study is as true as some doctors believe, patients in skilled care are at even greater risk of injuries than hospital patients.

Are Chicago doctors' stethoscopes contaminating you?

Thumbnail image for stethoscopeMost Cook County residents would never dream of sharing a toothbrush with another person, but plenty of us are sharing stethoscopes. Do physicians ever clean those things? A new study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings not only recommends doctors clean stethoscopes regularly but encourages disinfection after each patient use.

The study author, a World Health Organization infection control specialist, said stethoscopes are more contaminated with bacteria than you realize. Stethoscopes were used in the study to examine 71 patients. The round, flat diaphragm placed on a patient's body was found to have more bacteria than any area on the physician's hands, other than the fingertips, and stethoscope necks were dirtier than the backs of the doctor's hands.

Suits blame Chicago Sunrise facilities for resident mistreatment

The unadvertised need to sustain or improve finances is behind the caring motives promoted by long-term health care facilities. Added revenue can be used to improve services or line corporate pockets. A Chicago news investigator recently learned some local assisted-living facilities have broken rules that shortchange residents' safety.

The media report reviewed the problems in the Chicago area's 19 Sunrise Assisted-Living facilities. Ten Sunrise locations were issued citations by state public health officials for violations during the last two years. Inspectors uncovered serious issues.

Does a correct diagnosis hinge on how a Chicago doctor thinks?

Cold and flu symptoms are similar, so you may wonder how Cook County doctors know which illness you have. Medical training, experience and patient descriptions of how they feel help determine the answer. Do you think your diagnosis could be influenced, if 10 recently-examined patients all had colds?

A West Coast medical professor and cognitive psychologists agree physicians' thinking patterns are not so different from other people. In general, individuals either think intuitively or analytically. The way your doctor thinks may mean the difference between an accurate diagnosis and a missed diagnosis, possibly a serious medical mistake.

State files criminal, civil charges for nursing home neglect

Patient care mistakes in Cook County long-term care facilities may go undetected. Nursing home residents are often elderly, very ill or incapacitated, which makes them targets for abuse. Many residents are silent victims of nursing home neglect.

Prosecutors in a state on the East Coast have brought criminal and civil charges against Medford Multicare Center for Living, Inc. The 320-bed nursing home has operated for more than a decade on Long Island. The state alleges, from the time the facility opened, patients were at risk.

Medication errors found in 9 percent of Illinois nursing homes

The rate of cited drug errors in Illinois nursing homes is lower than the national average, according to the director of the state's public health department.

The news sounds comforting for Cook County residents with loved ones in long-term care facilities, but the medication error citation rate is still 9 percent. That excludes mistakes that weren't detected among the state's 85,000 nursing home residents.

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