A recent study on medical errors committed in the US in 2008 showed that it cost $19.5 million, the loss of more than 2,500 potentially preventable deaths and more than 10 million lost days of work. The study, published in July 2010, put in stark perspective the tremendous cost that errors made by medical personnel can entail, despite attempts by health-related agencies to work towards zero-tolerance in the last decade or so.
Let me clarify that medical errors are best defined as a preventable adverse event of medical care that is the result of improper medical management, ie an error of commission, rather than the progression of medical illness due to lack of care, ie an error of omission.
Definitions aside, the cost of such errors are sometimes not measurable, such as pain & suffering and malpractice costs.
Given the above figures, one can imagine that medical errors can be somewhat frequent. Indeed, the Annals of Surgery reported that 9% of surgeons in the US admitted they had made a “major medical error” in the preceding three months.
So how do you avoid mistakes when going for surgery ?
Some pointers include looking for a hospital with a good safety record as well as those possessing a recognised accreditation standard (such hospitals voluntarily undergo screening by a recognised review body, such as the JCI, in order to provide services of a certain minimum quality).
Find out from your doctor where he sends his relative to. What’s good enough for a doctor is usually a stamp of approval. Why, even nurses in the hospital may provide the right doctor if one cares to ask.
Look for a doctor who’s busy. Sure, it means long waiting times, but this might be worth it in the long run.
Finally, some health department websites do provide statistics on how many specific operations are done in a year and what the complication rates are. This way one can opt for the best hospitals for a particular procedure.
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