Errors in emergency rooms can lead to catastrophic injury or death.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are more than 140 million emergency room visits each year.  If only a small percentage of these visits involve medical errors, the result would be millions of emergency room injuries.

Common emergency room injuries include:

  • Medication Errors
  • Miscommunication between patients and care providers.
  • Misdiagnosis

Medications errors range from improper dosage to patients being given the wrong medication.

Miscommunication can involve a downplaying of symptoms.  Responding “I’m fine” to a question about pain, numbness or other troubling symptom can lead to a diagnosis of something far less severe than the actual condition.

Misdiagnosis can take many forms.  An improperly performed test, such as a contaminated blood or urine sample, can lead to a bad result.  Or, the failure to see a physician (perhaps because the emergency room is too crowded) can lead to a non-physician provider reaching a conclusion that is rubber-stamped without questioning by a seasoned physician.

Fortunately, there are a number of steps patients can take to minimize the risk of serious emergency room injuries.

  • Know the hospitals and emergency rooms in your area.  Visit www.medicare.gov to study the record of patient care and safety at your local emergency room.  This website lists multiple criteria, including average wait time, percentage of patients who left the emergency room before being seen, average time patients spent in the emergency department after a doctor decided to admit them before leaving for their impatient room, and many other criteria.
  • Know the doctors who staff the emergency rooms in your town.  Visit the American Board of Medical specialties (www.abms.org) to determine whether doctors are board certified.
  • Be sure to communicate with the nurses, doctors and hospital staff.  Don’t assume that you will automatically get the care you need, particularly if your condition changes while you are in the emergency room.
  • Remember to call, or have a family member call, your family physician on the way to the emergency room.  If your personal physician is communicating with the emergency room staff, this may enhance the level of care you receive.

By studying the performance of local healthcare providers, consumers can better educate themselves about their medical care options.  At Clark Perdue, we encourage consumers to be proactive in their healthcare.  And, in the event that consumers suffer substandard care, we stand ready to investigate and pursue their claims.  Clark, Perdue & List Co, LPA, 695 Bryden Road, Columbus, Ohio.