emergency room errors

Medical errors based on wrong decisions made in the emergency rooms


What causes medical errors to be made in hospital emergency rooms?  Most likely bad decisions by doctors, according to recent new research.

Medical errors have been estimated the third leading cause of death in the United States.  There are a wide range of serious medical mistakes made every day, including wrong site surgery, hospital-acquired infections, and medication errors.

Wrong Emergency Room Diagnosis

A hospital emergency room offers unique challenges to medical care providers.  In this setting, how doctors process information can be key.  A wrong diagnosis in the emergency room, for example, can send healthcare providers down the wrong treatment path and patients to a much longer than necessary hospital stay – or potentially an outcome much worse.

These are the findings of an emergency room care study published in the July 2018 issue of De Gruyter’s Journal Diagnosis (“Cognitive Error in an Academic Emergency Department”).

Researchers reviewed patient records of a New York City hospital’s emergency department.  They focused on patients who returned within 72 hours of their original visit and had to be admitted to the hospital, as this is a likely sign that some medical mistakes were made the first time.  A team of outside doctors reviewed these records to determine if and what type of medical errors were made in the emergency room.

Wrong Medical Decisions Made With Right Medical Information

The researchers noted that a previous study found that mistakes during primary care visits typically involved errors during history taking as well as in the patient exam.  In this emergency room study, it often wasn’t bad information that led to medical errors; it’s how the doctors acted based on good information that was the culprit.

By far the largest group of ER medical errors – 45 percent – was categorized as problems with information processing. This means that treating physicians had the correct data to properly treat the patient but they made a wrong decision.

The second leading group of medical mistakes in the hospital emergency room was linked to problems in checking the patient information that was gathered.

The remaining broad categories, both of which were minimal, were faulty information gathering and faulty medical knowledge.

Researchers found there were two most common specific medical errors made in the emergency room.  One was misjudging how important a particular medical finding was.  The other was making an incorrect diagnosis of a patient.

While a hospital room can be a demanding environment for physicians, they are still expected to provide a standard level of care.  When they make clearly wrong decisions, their patients may suffer needlessly.

If you suffered harm or had a family member die while receiving medical care, consult an attorney who represents victims of medical malpractice and review the details of your experience.