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Bergen County Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Preventing medication errors in New Jersey hospitals

In our last post, we discussed a recent report showing that New Jersey Hospitals rank fifth in the nation in terms of patient safety. The Leapfrog Group, a non-profit hospital watchdog, was behind the rating.

On the whole, the fact that New Jersey hospitals rank highly is great news for patients. But there is always room for improvement. In today's post, we'll discuss a common problem that many New Jersey hospitals continue to struggle with: medication errors.

New Jersey hospitals get high marks for patient safety in 1 study

For decades, Americans have been unable to "shop" for their medical care in the way they could shop for other goods and services. The hospital you chose was often chosen by geographic proximity.

In small communities and for emergency care, Americans are still largely unable to choose hospitals based on anything but geography. But increasingly, we do find that we have more choices in health care, which is why hospital ratings and safety scores have become important consumer tools. These rating systems also help states assess the quality of healthcare overall.

Federal bill includes troubling medical malpractice provision

In a medical malpractice lawsuit, expert testimony is often crucial for plaintiffs. Typically, the experts giving testimony are fellow medical professionals with substantial experience in the same field as the doctor being accused of negligence. Through their testimony, they attempt to show that the defendant failed to meet the standard of care which the patient was supposed to receive.

Establishing and meeting standards of care are obviously important in health care, which is why such standards are increasingly being tied to doctor pay. Government insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid as well as provisions in the Affordable Care Act have set clear goals of paying doctors based on quality and value rather than just the number of services provided.

Tort reform stories in the media often reported without context

Several of our recent posts have been focused on the debate over "tort reform," specifically as it applies to medical malpractice lawsuits. The common argument made by tort reform proponents was that doctors were ordering expensive and unnecessary tests because they feared being sued for medical malpractice if they missed something or made a mistake. The practice is referred to as "defensive medicine."

Unfortunately, this is a myth that persists despite significant evidence to the contrary. And the media may be largely perpetuating this misinformation (though probably unintentionally). Two contrary articles put out within the last year suggest that certain news outlets report stories with little regard for the broader context.

Reduce lawsuits by addressing medical malpractice at the source

For years, influential figures in medicine, politics and insurance have worked to institute "tort reform" laws. They allege that America is too litigious, especially when it comes to things like medical malpractice. These so-called reforms promised to rein in the costs of healthcare by making it harder for patients to sue physicians/hospitals and by putting caps on damage awards.

The financial promises of tort reform have not been fulfilled, and many are now wondering if the proponents of these laws were trying to distract from the real problem. In a recent guest news article written by the president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, Robert Weissman discusses an astoundingly simple idea that was largely left out of the tort-reform rhetoric. Instead of taking away patients' rights to sue and to be fairly compensated, why not just find ways to reduce medical errors?

Hospital sued for medical malpractice causing teen's brain damage

New Jersey readers likely remember a news story that has been resurfacing for the past year or so. It concerns a 13-year-old girl who suffered severe brain damage after a controversial surgical procedure in California.

In addition to the allegations of medical malpractice that led to the girl's vegetative state, the story made national news because of disagreements over whether she should have been taken off life support. The girl is currently being cared for at a hospital in New Jersey.

Going beyond medical mistake prevention to harm elimination

America has a culture of consumerism. In order to stay competitive (or even to stay in business), companies have to go the extra mile to give customers products and services faster, more cheaply and with a great attitude. This last aspect - the customer experience - is what truly sets great companies apart from good ones.

This willingness to go the extra mile is missing in some industries, usually those where we need a product or service and have few options for where to obtain it. One of the best examples may be health care.

Court: No more med-mal liability protection on the open seas

Medical care is becoming more sophisticated and more portable all the time. Complicated procedures that used to be available only in major hospitals can now be done in remote areas of the world if funds and trained personnel are available. At the very least, patients needing complicated emergency care can be transferred to a properly equipped hospital by helicopter.

Because high-quality medical care is now portable, this new reality should change our expectations of the medical care offered by certain companies, like cruise lines. Last November, we wrote about a medical malpractice lawsuit challenging broad immunity for cruise lines. Recently, that challenge was upheld when an appellate court refused to reconsider a ruling against Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.

How your doctor-patient relationship can reduce the risk of errors

In our last post, we discussed the idea that the majority of medical errors that harm patients are caused by miscommunication. Listening is a vitally important skill, yet one that doctors often fail to utilize.

So what can you do to protect yourself from medical negligence if you feel that you haven’t been heard and understood by hospital staff? According to a recent study from Consumer Reports, patients need to demand a certain level of respect from their doctors and set the expectation that they are partners in their own medical care.

Improving communication to prevent serious medical errors

Whether we realize it or not, most of our meaningful interactions with others center on relationships. Work is more enjoyable and usually more productive if you like your colleagues. You are more likely to keep hiring an auto mechanic who has proven himself to be honest and reliable.

Relationships used to be at the heart of health care, but that no longer seems to be the case. Doctors and hospitals often regard medical appointments and diagnoses as a service to be delivered as quickly as possible. Building trust and rapport between doctor and patient is a secondary priority at best. Unfortunately, poor or inadequate communication between doctors and patients can lead to dangerous and costly medical errors.

$7.4 Billion Medicaid Recovery

Breslin and Breslin, PA, Donald A. Caminiti, Esq., was one of six law firms selected by the Attorney General of the State of New Jersey to act as special counsel to represent it in its lawsuit against the tobacco industry to recover Medicaid and other health related costs incurred by the state resulting from tobacco related illnesses.