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Miami Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Pre-surgical education leads to better patient outcomes

According to a new Gallup poll, patients in Florida and across the country do better after surgery when they receive good pre-surgical education. The survey contains significant insight into how patients and those who are involved in their care could achieve better surgical outcomes.

The survey asked post-surgical patients to rate how well they had been informed about what they should expect after the procedure, how they should manage their post-op experience and how they should follow post-surgical instructions. Patients who highly rated their education in at least one of those areas reported greater satisfaction and fewer complications than patients who rated their education lower. Those who said they were well-informed in more than one category experienced even better results.

Cancer misdiagnosis may be grounds for malpractice case

To many people, medical malpractice means that the doctor makes a mistake in surgery or a nurse gives a patient the wrong medication. While those situations can constitute malpractice, one of the most common types of Florida malpractice cases is misdiagnosis. Generally, this means that a physician fails to diagnose an illness in time for treatment to be provided.

One of the most commonly missed diagnoses is cancer. Because many types of cancer can be effectively treated or even cured with early diagnosis, it is imperative that a doctor refer a patient to a specialist if screening tests hint at cancer. Misdiagnosis of cancer does not just delay treatment; in many cases, it is fatal.

Use of electronic medical records

As Florida residents may know, electronic medical records are intended to provide easy documentation for health care providers. While features such as portability and easy access are attributes EMRs espouse, problems involving lack of training and data manipulation has led to over $30 million in malpractice losses.

According to an expert witness and UCLA professor of clinical medicine, out of the roughly 85,000 malpractice cases annually, many now involve EMRs. In one case, a health care provider ordered a urinalysis that displayed abnormalities. The results were not acted upon. Some years later, an undetected medical problem caused the patient to suffer kidney damage. The patient was awarded $2 million in damages. In a different case, confusion over the record led a judge to remark that the doctor could not explain the record. In other cases, a witnesses told the judge that the EMR might have been altered so that graphs and charts could be extrapolated. The court displayed astonishment that the EMR could be manipulated.

Surgical burn injury causes and prevention

Florida residents may want some information about skin injuries that occur during surgical procedures. There are multiple potential causes for these injuries, depending on the particular equipment and techniques used by the medical staff.

Skin injuries to patients are a common occurrence in the operating room, whether due to improper use of medical equipment or another type of surgical mistake or nursing negligence. These injuries can come from multiple causes, such as contact with electrical equipment, heat sources and even sterilizing materials used in the procedure.

Induced labor may reduce injury risk for larger babies

Florida parents who are expecting a child might be interested in the findings of a recently-published study that focused on the effectiveness of inducing labor as a means to reduce the risk of shoulder dystocia to larger babies. Specifically, the researchers found that for every 25 induced labors, one case of shoulder dystocia was avoided.

Shoulder dystocia occurs during childbirth when there is a delay between the emergence of the baby's head and the delivery of the shoulders and the rest of the body. It is more common during delivery of large babies, and may result in fractures or other injuries. The study focused on patients at hospitals in France, Switzerland and Belgium.

Doctors mixed on effectiveness of new lung cancer test

Florida residents may be interested to learn that while Medicare will pay for a new lung cancer test for individuals within a certain high-risk population, not all doctors think the test is a good idea. Although a study in 2011 showed that the test might reduce lung cancer deaths by 20 percent, some physicians caution that it must be balanced against the potentially high rate of false positives and the subsequent tests that may have dangerous complications. For example, a lung biopsy could lead to a collapsed lung.

Physicians are not questioning the study itself, and a panel of independent experts have argued that the tests, called spiral CT scans, are more likely to do good than harm. The concern that some doctors have is about how the tests will be conducted outside the strictures of the study. Physicians point out that in the study, participants fully understood the parameters of the test and the potential dangers of follow-up testing.

Emergency room physicians more likely to be sued

Florida doctors recognize the importance of careful diagnostics and treatment when dealing with their patients. However, those involved in emergency care may find it necessary to be even more cautious in these efforts due to the fact that this area of practice is particularly prone to malpractice claims. A recent study notes that the failure to diagnose is a leading issue contributing to injuries to emergency care patients.

More than half of the cases studied were closed medical claims involving physician negligence through diagnostic errors. Another 13 percent of cases involved incorrect management of treatment, especially in trauma cases. Some cases related to inappropriate procedure execution, and others were connected to medication errors. As other contributing factors to patient injuries are considered, inadequate equipment for dealing with special situations such as obesity are cited. A lack of communication among providers can also result in poor patient outcomes.

Diagnostic errors in radiology

Florida residents may know the role of diagnosis in the treatment of disease cannot be minimized. A 2009 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicated that 40,000 to 80,000 hospital deaths are due to diagnostic error in the United States. Radiographic studies play an important part in the diagnostic process, and the report emphasized that failure to recognize radiographic evidence of a disease occurs frequently.

Radiology error is involved in about 4 percent of all such interpretations. In addition, 30 percent of abnormalities are not reported, and this might result in less effective treatment. In one group, chest nodules measuring 16 millimeters across and related to lung cancer were missed by radiologists 19 percent of the time. Since early treatment may lead to an improved prognosis, this sort of mistake may have a deleterious effect.

Study shows most breast cancer biopsies are misdiagnosed

A surprising new study shows that pathologists in Florida and across the United States may be misdiagnosing up to 75 percent of all breast cancer biopsies. The research was recently published by the American Medical Association. In the study, researchers asked three leading breast cancer specialists to review the biopsy diagnoses of 100 pathologists and compare them with their own medical opinions. The specialists noted significant discrepancies between their findings and the findings of the pathologists. The results indicate that a significant number of the 1.6 million women who undergo breast cancer biopsies annually are being misdiagnosed.

Approximately 20 percent of women who have breast cancer biopsies are told they have breast cancer. Another 60,000 find out they have atypia, which means abnormal cells have been found in the milk duct. If they have been misdiagnosed, they may be over-treated for benign conditions or under-treated for life-threatening conditions. Those with atypia are at particular risk of over-treatment, because medical experts disagree whether the condition is actually a precursor to cancer.

Safety risks of problematic childbirths

Expecting parents in Florida may be interested in information on how childbirths may be affected by the quality of the safety programs in place at local hospitals. Some reports contend that the fatalities and injuries associated with problematic childbirths is one of the most significant health care issues in the country. However, a recently report reviews some of the ways four institutions dramatically improved childbirth safety over the past 15 years.

Studies attribute poor communication to approximately 65 percent of the catastrophic outcomes that can occur from a problematic childbirth. Improving training in communication, emergency childbirth response, compliance during high-risk procedures and cesarean section assessment were the common focal points in the safety initiatives. One organization lowered the neonatal fatality rate at over 40 of its hospitals by almost 50 percent, despite it being 62 percent below the country's average at the onset of the campaign.