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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.

Doctors, not hospital procedures to blame for majority of medical errors

The way our health care system is set up, doctors are afforded a tremendous amount of responsibility and trust. When an Illinois resident goes to the doctor or hospital, he or she is often seen by one doctor who is solely responsible for conducting an examination, diagnosing any health problems, establishing a treatment plan and ensuring for proper follow-up care. If a mistake is made at any point during this process, a patient may suffer harm, injury and even death.

U.S. research and studies related to medical errors show that at least 100,000 patients die annually as a result of preventable medical mistakes. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine presented a report to members of the U.S. Congress which became the driving force behind the institution of many changes in how hospitals operated. Some patient safety advocates argue, however, that hospitals have failed to address a key issue that may pose the most danger to patients.

A quarter of lawsuits against cardiologists allege misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis

At some point, many Illinois residents will either experience cardiac problems firsthand or have a family member who is impacted. When an individual or a family member is diagnosed as having some sort of heart condition, they are typically referred to a cardiologist who may conduct additional tests and procedures.

Like all doctors, cardiologists must work to promptly diagnose and treat heart conditions. Additionally, cardiologists must work to ensure they are openly and honestly communicating with patients and their family members about a diagnosis as well as the potential risks and benefits of any recommended treatments or procedures.

Former surgeon named as defendant in hundreds of lawsuits

Residents around the U.S. and in states like Illinois often turn to doctors and other medical professionals when experiencing pain or other worrisome physical symptoms. From a young age, many people grow up revering doctors and come to regard those men and women who choose the profession as intelligent and compassionate individuals who are focused on helping people ultimately feel better. Unfortunately, there are cases in which doctors take advantage of their position and the trust of patients.

An orthopedic surgeon recently learned that instead of spending his days seeing patients, he will soon be spending them staring at the walls of a prison cell. The doctor was accused of running an elaborate health insurance fraud operation in which he billed millions of dollars worth of false claims to health insurers.

Surgeon's repeated mistakes overlooked too many times

While often deemed otherwise, doctors are normal human beings and therefore not infallible. When a doctor makes a mistake, the stakes are often high and may result in a patient suffering harm, injury and even death. When medical mistakes occur, it is the responsibility of hospital administrators to take steps to thoroughly investigate the matter and, if necessary, suspend a doctor's practicing privileges. When serious concerns exist, hospitals have a legal and moral duty to report doctors believed to pose a risk to patients to the state medical board.

News from another state relaying the serious and unconscionable actions of one spinal surgeon recently surfaced. The serious allegations against the doctor will likely lead to multiple criminal charges as well as medical malpractice lawsuits. It's also likely that the actions or inactions of the hospitals at which he was employed will also be closely examined.

Medical malpractice law at center of debate in neighboring state

Thumbnail image for photo1.jpgOne of the most disheartening situations for any Illinois resident who is dealing with an illness is when their condition gets misdiagnosed. They put trust in their doctor in hopes of figuring out what is wrong with them only to learn, sometimes at a point that may be too late, that the doctor made a crucial mistake.

This topic is at the center of a debate between medical professionals and lawyers in our northern neighbor Wisconsin. A bill was signed into law last year that made it more difficult to sue doctors. The issue that at least one lawyer has is with one part of the bill specifically. That addition states that "a doctor cannot be found liable for failing to disclose treatment options for an ailment that the doctor did not diagnose." 

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.

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