A patient is wise to have concerns about an upcoming procedure or treatment for an illness. We are our own best advocates, and it is important to push for the best care possible … and yet, what do we do when our hospital stay causes illness? Unfortunately, this is a reality for thousands of patients throughout the country. They enter the hospital for illness or injury and encounter additional issues during their stay. Two of the most common examples are medical errors and hospital-acquired infections.
#1: Medical error
Medical errors continue to present a leading cause of death in the United States. Over 400,000 patients suffer a preventable harm while in the hospital every year. These can include a nurse that provides the patient the wrong medication, a surgeon that operates on the wrong site or leaves something behind after completion of the procedure, or a physician’s failure to diagnose an injury.
Those injured due to a medical error can hold their medical team financially accountable for the injury. This is important because the injury will likely result in additional costs like further medical care, rehabilitation expenses, and missed wages.
#2: Hospital-acquired infection
There are also times when we go to the hospital because we have an illness or injury and develop an unrelated illness. Hospital-acquired bacterial infections develop during the stay that were not originally present or incubating within the patient at the time of admission. Examples can include:
- Catheter-associated urinary tract infections
- Central line-associated bloodstream infections
- Ventilator-associated pneumonia
Symptoms often include cough, shortness of breath, and abdominal pain. These infections increase healthcare costs, length of stay, and mortality rates. Although not a new problem, hospital-acquired infections continue to plague hospitals nationwide. A recent study estimates that these infections cost almost $10 billion annually.
Researchers encourage healthcare professionals to practice continued hand hygiene and contact precautions to reduce the risk of spreading bacteria within the hospital setting. Patients who become ill because a healthcare provider failed to follow these precautions can likely hold that individual accountable through a medical malpractice claim.