Patients who fear going to the hospital can add another place to their list: the doctors’ office. Despite the widespread belief that patients are more likely to experience serious or fatal medical errors in hospitals, adverse events are just as frequent in doctors’ offices.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association using the National Practitioner Data Bank found that nearly half of the 11,000 malpractice payments on behalf of physicians in 2009 resulted from medical errors that happened in doctors’ offices while the other half occurred in hospitals. The researches stated that “the finding shows the need to improve care in doctor’s offices.”

The primary medical error in patient care varies between hospitals and doctors’ offices. Surgical errors are the number one reason for adverse events in hospitals. The main causes of mistakes in doctors’ offices are diagnostic errors. Examples of these and other causes of medical errors include:

  • Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosis
  • Failure to order appropriate diagnostic tests
  • Failure to create a proper follow-up plan
  • Lack of coordination and communication within doctors’ offices

Roughly 70 percent of adverse events resulting in malpractice claims against physicians and doctors’ offices involved death or a grave permanent injury.

Preventing Medical Errors and Increasing Patient Safety

There are many ways to improve patient safety, and one main area is communication within and between doctors’ offices. The use of electronic medical records has helped improve patient safety in clinics and hospitals by keeping track of crucial medical information and allowing better coordination of tests and treatments being administered. Missouri has already implemented the use of electronic medical records, and currently nine out of 10 hospitals have some form of electronic records in place.

Patients can also take steps to reduce medical errors by knowing what tests and treatments are being performed and why, following up on test results, and sharing an updated medication list with all doctors involved in their care.

Despite patient safety initiatives in hospitals and clinics, medical errors still occur which can result in injury or death. If you or a loved one has been injured due to medical errors, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your case.

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