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When is it Considered a Medical Error?

medical errorSimply put, a medical error is when an “adverse effect or harm” occurs that could have been prevented, but its application is much less simple. In fact, whether something counts as a medical error comes down to how a series of events unfolds rather than a definitive definition. This begins with a lack of communication, inattentiveness or poor planning, which leads to an adverse effect or type of harm, leading to a preventable event.

The first and last part of the series events are what define whether it constitutes as a medical error and not a mishap. The main four categories to pay attention to in order to avoid a medical error include knowledge, attention, communication and planning. If these four areas are properly addressed, even if there are mishaps in a healthcare environment, it won’t be considered a medical error. Some errors happen more frequently than others. Understanding these more common errors can help healthcare professionals avoid legal issues in their careers

Common Medical Errors in Healthcare

While there is no reliable data on how common medical errors are in general due to underreporting and logistical issues, there is a lot of data on which errors are the most common.

  • Errors in treatment such as a treatment or a procedure being performed poorly or incorrectly. This could be anything from not positioning a patient correctly or using the wrong medical instrument.
  • Infections that are not treated properly or come as a result of personnel not following the proper control protocols. An example of this is doing a simple dressing change on a wound improperly, leading to infection.
  • Error in medication such as the wrong drug being administered or an incorrect dosage being measured out or dispensed.
  • Laboratory errors include test results being incorrectly reported or not being reported in a reasonable amount of time, which led to harm of a patient.
  • Falls can also be considered a medical error when they come as the result of a CNA not following proper protocol or procedure. Research on patient falls has concluded nearly all falls can be prevented.
  • Inaccurate or delayed diagnosis of a medical condition can also be considered a medical error.

Were you the victim of a medical error? Contact our team today to find out if you have a pursuable case.


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