The chief of the Phoenix VA has been fired. Sharon Helman was in charge of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, which had been at the center of a major scandal over the past several months regarding intentional delay of patient care. Ms. Helman denied the existence of a secret list that had been used to cover up significant delays in patient care. These delays led to worsening health conditions of our veterans and even death. In fact, the Inspector General confirmed that 3,500 veterans had been waiting for appointments on one of those secret lists. In addition to the lists, the Phoenix VA also hid the length of their wait times.
On November 3, 2014, U.S. News & World Report released its list of the best law firms in the country for 2015. We are proud and honored to announce that Snyder & Wenner, P.C. was again named as a top law firm in the country in both medical malpractice and personal injury.
Caption: Exemplar blood pressure monitor (courtesy of www.ohgizmo.com)
A new study done by doctors at Ottawa Hospital is alerting people that their home blood pressure monitors may be inaccurate.
Guidelines typically recommend home blood pressure monitors to guide diagnosis and treatment of patients with hypertension. What the study concluded, however, is that many people know very little about the accuracy of the devices they use. To determine the devices’ accuracy, researchers compared measurements from home blood monitors with validated mercury sphygmomanometers (used in doctors’ offices). Comparing the data from 210 patients, investigators found that 63 of the home monitor systolic blood pressure readings had more than a 5mm Hg difference from the mercury systolic blood pressure measurement. An additional 16 units had more than 10mm Hg different. Diastolic blood pressures had proportions of 32% and 9%, respectively.
Healthcare Global, a magazine dedicated to providing healthcare information to industry leaders, recently published an article discussing nine ways that basic communication errors can lead to patient safety problems. Importantly, though, the article also provides how to solve these basic issues, thus preventing bad outcomes, including hospital negligence.
1. Patient test results can be delayed getting to the right doctor
According to the article, the Joint Commission has identified “delays in the communication of critical test results as a major problem for patient safety.” These problems also lead to longer hospital stays, higher hospital bills, and lawsuits. The solution to this problem, according to the article, is to enable text alerts or to have critical results flagged in to the electronic medical record system. While these may seem like obvious options that should already exist in most hospitals (especially the flagging), they unfortunately do not.
When Insurance Companies Win, Consumers Lose
An article from the October issue of the New England Journal of Medicine finds that tort reform does not have the impact on emergency room medicine that supporters guaranteed it would.
Tort reform is an idea pushed by insurance companies that claims medical malpractice lawsuits cause the costs of medical care to increase, cause doctors to stop practicing medicine, and cause a trickle-down effect that impacts every person in our country. Most of the myths of tort reform have been debunked, but insurance companies have spent tens of millions of dollars promulgating this theory, and it still resonates with many people. The myth that this study sought to confirm or reject was that doctors live in fear of lawsuits, so they order excessive tests to rule out possible medical conditions; this increase in diagnostic testing leads to more charges to the insurance company, which, in turn, causes medical care to be more expensive.
Just this weekend, four babies were reported dead at a hospital in Dehradun, India. While the specific details of these incidents of hospital negligence are not yet known, these tragedies bring up a bigger issue in our medical world: Why are so many people—babies and adults alike—dying at such a rapid rate? The answer can be found in what is causing hospital negligence.
Oxygen deprivation during birth, also known as brain hypoxia or neonatal encephalopathy, has been linked to several debilitating conditions. Brain hypoxia can cause cognitive impairments, seizures, coma, and death. Newborn oxygen deprivation has been linked to autism and cerebral palsy. The severity of injury to the baby’s brain, and resulting neurological impairments, depends on the length of time the newborn was deprived of oxygen. Babies who experienced extended periods without oxygen during birth may need 24-hour care and extended long-term treatment.
The reason for oxygen deprivation during childbirth can vary. If the umbilical cord is compressed or twisted, oxygen may not be able to flow into the baby. The umbilical cord can end up twisted around a baby’s neck, cutting off oxygen supply to the brain. The baby may also end up wrongly positioned during delivery, becoming lodged in the birth canal without oxygen. In each situation, a doctor must act quickly, such as by performing an emergency Caesarean section, to avoid lasting damage to the baby.
Car accidents in Maricopa County, falls, physical violence, blows to the head, and participation in sports can all lead to a traumatic brain injury. A brain injury is a serious injury that requires immediate attention. Although a brain injury may seem mild, correct diagnosis and treatment is necessary to contain and minimize the damage.
Why brain injuries are difficult to diagnose
Although brain injuries, no matter how mild they appear on the surface, need immediate attention, it is difficult to detect whether or not a person may be suffering from a brain injury because:
There are few things as hard as seeing a parent or other beloved older adult grow infirm with age. Even people who once led healthy, active lives can be struck by conditions that render them unable to attend to some of their most basic needs.
Watching a loved one struggle with dementia, illness, or physical disability is never easy. In many cases, the families of these vulnerable adults put their faith in the doctors, nurses and other staff members at their local hospital. They hope that these professionals will recognize their loved one’s vulnerable state and provide compassionate and thorough care.
Medical malpractice lawsuits help incentivize healthcare providers to adhere to the highest standards of safety. When a doctor, nurse, or some other health care professional makes a harmful mistake, the injured patient or the family of a patient who is killed may hold the responsible parties accountable in a medical malpractice lawsuit.
An important aspect of medical malpractice lawsuits is expert testimony. A medical expert can explain the technical details of what went wrong and describe how the treating physician may have slipped below the applicable standard of care.