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When Medical Errors Happen In Emergency Rooms – An Attorney Explains

Idaho medical malpractice attorney


Usually we find out the hard way. After we – or a loved one – has been wheeled into the emergency department. There is the ambulance ride. The frantic blur of nurses and a doctor and the support staff reacting with great urgency. Something hurts, or won’t stop bleeding.  

It is only later when things don’t add up – or the recovery isn’t as smooth as promised – when it becomes obvious that mistakes have been made. 

Almost half of medical errors in the ER can be linked to problems with information processing not related to technology that accounts for 45 percent of all ER errors, according to a new study published recently in De Grunter’s Journal Diagnosis, a peer-reviewed publication of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM). 

Problems ER patients face

Problems with information processing include incomplete or outdated records, wrong prescriptions and patients without all pertinent records. 

Researchers found that, for patients who returned to the ER within 72 hours of their first visit, 31 percent of the time involved problems with verifications of one sort or another. 

Inadequate information gathering accounted for 18 percent of the errors. Incorrect diagnoses occurred 13 percent of the time. US News and World Report backs up this research 

“Medication errors at emergency departments lead to hundreds of thousands of injuries annually,” said Rita Shane, chief pharmacy officer and professor of medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. 

What you can do

So what can you do to prevent emergency room errors from happening to you? Cedars-Sinai suggests being proactive in your care, and recommends: 

  • Carrying a list of your prescriptions and dosages in your wallet or purse, including notations on any drug allergies. 
  • Including on any such list your over-the-counter medications, including herbal remedies, pain relievers or cold medications. These could have harmful side effects if combined with new medicine. 
  • Not hesitating to ask questions during your time in any emergency department. 

Emergency room chaos

But even knowing what dangers patients face in the ER sometimes isn’t enough. Lusine Poghosyan is a nurse who wrote an essay in USA Today about her experience as an ER patient.       

“During one of those wheelchair rides, I was eventually, finally given painkillers,” he wrote. “Then I was offered them again four minutes later. My mom and sister, both nurses themselves, jumped to say ‘she just took them.’ The staff members apologized for the confusion and left. I had a new understanding of a statistic I knew too well that 78 patients out of 100,000 who visit the ER experience some type of medication error. And they don’t have the benefit of two off-duty nurses watching over them.” 

If you or a loved one sustained a serious injury in an emergency room in Idaho, we can can help. The Idaho Law Firm of Joseph I. Brown, who is both a physician and attorney, can help you pursue all available legal avenues and discuss which strategy makes the most sense based on your medical malpractice needs.

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Law Firm of Joseph F. Brown, MD, JD, PLLC
3854 S. Naples Ave.,
Meridian, ID 83642
(208) 789-2222