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Common causes of emergency room errors

On Behalf of | Oct 1, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

Medical errors cause about 250,000 deaths in New York and around the country each year, and most of these mistakes are caused by cognitive issues rather than a lack of knowledge or skill. These were two of the conclusions reached by researchers who investigated errors made in emergency rooms. The results of the study were published in the medical journal Diagnosis in June 2018.

Information processing

The team of trained doctors looked for mistakes and possible medical malpractice by studying cases that involved patients who were admitted to hospitals after two emergency room visits within a 72-hour period. They wanted to find out why these patients had not been properly diagnosed and treated during their first visit, and they discovered that communication errors were the primary reason. This was not because patients had given emergency room doctors incorrect or misleading information, it was because physicians failed to use the information they were given properly.

Stress and fatigue

Problems with processing and verifying information accounted for 76% of the emergency room errors discovered by the researchers. These errors most commonly involved doctors making premature decisions and not realizing how significant information was. Doctors having inadequate knowledge or being given incorrect information accounted for less than a quarter of the mistakes. The study did not speculate about why doctors are making these mistakes, but previous research suggests that fatigue and stress are most likely responsible. The study also failed to explain why individuals with abdominal issues were more likely to be the victims of an emergency room errors mistake than other patients.

Hospital negligence

Emergency rooms are hectic places, and the doctors and nurses who work in them are under a great deal of stress. The results of this study suggest that hospitals may be contributing to emergency room mistakes by not having enough staff on duty to prevent fatigue and burnout. The defendants in medical malpractice lawsuits are usually physicians, but hospitals can also be sued for negligence if they do not maintain medical equipment properly or if they reduce the number of doctors and nurses on duty to a dangerously low level.