Why Do Medical Errors Keep Happening?

Looking for the underlying causes of medical mistakes can reveal systemic problems such as poor leadership of physician supervisors and repeat offender doctors.

Why do medical errors keep happening?

Numerous books, articles and research studies in recent years have shined spotlights on the prevalence of medical mistakes. Medication errors, surgical errors, misdiagnoses and other medical errors harm many thousands of patients every year in American hospitals and other health care settings. The Leapfrog Group, an independent nonprofit organization, has attributed as many as 440,000 fatalities a year to preventable errors in hospitals.

The high costs of medical malpractice cases

When medical mistakes trigger lawsuits, costs mount quickly for both sides of a claim. Both the injured patient (or family members) and the defending doctor or other medical professional may spend many thousands of dollars seeking to prove or disclaim evidence of medical malpractice and resulting harm done. A successful claim or lawsuit may result in tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. Not surprisingly, medical malpractice insurance remains a high-dollar necessity for health care practitioners.

An emphasis on improving safety in hospitals and other health care settings

In response to this trend, both government agencies and medical organizations emphasize the importance of safety measures in health care delivery. For example, before surgery, a patient may be asked to mark the part of his or her body that will be operated on. This is just one example of how hospitals and medical practices build in protections designed to protect patients.

Some discovered risk factors

Despite efforts toward prevention of medical errors – and many success stories – injury cases still occur. So why does this problem remain so persistent? Analysts point to several key factors that may affect overall condition in health care settings, including:

Poor organizational leadership in large health care organizations: A Mayo study cited in Slate concluded that leadership qualities of physician supervisors apparently impact individual physicians working in hospitals and medical practices.

Physician burnout: Annals of Surgery reported a correlation between surgeons’ reported degree of burnout and their reports of major medical errors.

Repeat offender doctors: The New England Journal of Medicine discovered that about a third of successful legal claims against medical practitioners involved just one percent of American doctors.

Determining how a medical mistake happened is a challenge worth taking on when it may make the difference between a successful claim or lawsuit and an unsuccessful one.

Miller & Wagner, LLP, in Portland, Oregon, meticulously gathers facts and evaluates medical error cases while preparing injury claims and lawsuits. Discovery of factors such as doctor burnout or previous error cases involving the same doctors can contribute to development of compelling injury claims. Clients who have suffered injury or lost loved ones through medical malpractice reap the benefits when a medical malpractice case brings the hoped-for compensation to cover both financial and intangible losses.