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Thousands of patient ID errors occur every year

It may have already happened to you.

A pharmacist gave you the wrong dosage of a regular medicine you take-you noticed, because the tablets had a different look. You reported the error, and it was quickly fixed. But imagine if you had taken the wrong dosage. How would you feel? Would it be disastrous to your health?

Perhaps you noticed something on your electronic medical record that didn't pertain to you-a history of breast cancer, which you don't have now and never had. Again, you reported the error, and the healthcare system righted the wrong. Still, it seems that if you're not vigilant about protecting yourself, you could end up with incorrect information that will adversely affect your health-especially with the use of electronic medical records. 

The above are examples of small patient identification errors, but what if they were bigger than that? What if they occurred in a hospital? What if your routine surgery became anything but routine?

Patient ID errors occur every day

A recent report by the ECRI Institute Patient Safety Organization (PSO) analyzed over 7,600 wrong-patient events that took place over a period of 32 months. While many errors were recognized before harm occurred, nine percent resulted in temporary or lasting harm--or death.

Some of their findings include:

  • Anyone on a patient's healthcare team can make an error
  • Errors can occur at all stages of a patient's treatment, including during registration, tests, surgery and medication
  • ID errors harm at least two patients if medications are reversed or omitted

Going into the hospital is scary enough on its own. When you're in the hospital undergoing a major medical procedure, you have to rely on others to catch the errors-and the same people charged with preventing them and protecting you are the same people treating you and potentially making the mistakes. Yes, there are many safeguards to protect these errors from happening-but they still occur, often with very painful, even deadly results.

If this hasn't happened to you or someone you love, consider yourself lucky. If it has, consider talking with an attorney. There's no excuse for patient ID errors.

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