Advanced medical technology is doing little to prevent mistakes

A government report released 20 years ago indicated that medical mistakes killed about 98,000 people in Texas and around the country each year, but more recent studies suggest that the annual death toll could be more than double this figure. One of the most recent studies concluded that medical mistakes are the third most common cause of death in the United States and affect approximately one in 20 patients. More than 10% of these patients are either killed or left permanently disabled.

The figures suggest that doctors have particular difficulty diagnosing potentially deadly conditions like cancer, heart disease and infections. These medical mistakes have cost the health care industry about $1.8 billion in medical malpractice awards or settlements, and the introduction of new techniques and technology have done little to improve diagnostic accuracy. Some experts say that 3D imaging and electronic health care records have actually made things worse because they provide doctors with vast amounts of confusing and contradictory data.

Electronic records have also been linked to physician burnout. Doctors now spend hours staring at screens filled with data, which means they spend far less time speaking with their patients. More than half of the physicians who contributed to a recent study exhibited symptoms of burnout. The study also found that stressed and fatigued doctors make diagnostic mistakes about twice as often.

Individuals who suffer as a result of hospital or doctor errors may pursue civil remedies by filing medical malpractice lawsuits. Personal injury attorneys with experience in this area might seek to establish negligence in a medical malpractice case by calling expert witnesses who could assess treatment records to pinpoint where errors were made. Experts may also explain how the care provided to malpractice plaintiffs failed to meet generally accepted treatment standards and directly contributed to their injury, loss or damage.


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