Medical error is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. These errors are not limited to those patients admitted to the hospital but can occur in the emergency room as well. In fact they can occur before a patient is even seen by a doctor. In the ER setting typically the first medical personnel you will see is a triage nurse. His or her job is to assess your signs, symptoms, complaints, and other available data and determine how emergently you need care. You are then given an assigned score of 1 – 5, with 1 being the most urgent case and 5 being the least urgent case. Examples of a 1 are cardiac arrest or massive bleeding. A 2 could be cardiac related chest pain or an asthma attack. A 3 could be abdominal pain or high fever with a cough. A 4 may be a simple cut or bruise. A 5 could be someone with a rash. The score given to you not only determines how emergently you will receive care, but can also mean whether or not you are treated by a doctor or ER staff instead. Therefore getting the wrong triage score could leave you or a loved one languishing when you need emergent treatment, or have you seen by someone without enough medical knowledge or experience to properly treat your condition.
Another serious error that can occur in the emergency room setting is not verifying information that was gathered to ensure it was complete, accurate, and correct. (Or not verifying that it was actually gathered). For example an ER patient’s medical history can be very important in determining the seriousness of their condition, especially if they have had recent repeat visits for an issue that has not resolved with the treatment given. Therefore it is vital for any subsequent treaters you see after the triage nurse to ensure that the medical history taken was complete and accurate. A failure to do this can lead to vital information needed for your treatment being missed.
There can also be problems with medical information processing in the emergency room: routine observation, identification of the problem, analysis of the problem, translation of problem solutions into daily practice, and control as to whether the problem has been solved or eliminated. On that end a typical individual error that can occur is misjudging how significant a finding is that can lead to a patient being discharged rather than admitted. Prematurely deciding on an incorrect diagnosis can also be a problem – leading to downplaying signs and symptoms that should lead to a different diagnosis. Therefore if you or a loved one are ever in an emergency room it is very important for to over communicate – this can ensure that the correct information regarding your primary complaints and medical history is taken down.
If negligence does occur in the emergency room, the blame does not always fall solely on the back of the treating medical staff and doctors. The hospital may have an understaffed and overworked ER. This can lead to the staff missing critical information needed for you or your loved one’s care – either because they do not have the time to fully give the attention that you deserve or are simply exhausted from being overworked. This represents an overriding system failure beyond the mere mistake of one emergency room staff member or doctor.
Whether you or a loved one received negligent treatment in the emergency room that lead to serious harm ultimately will be determined by medical experts – whether it be nurses, emergency room doctors, or experts in hospital administration – after a review of records. Attorneys experienced in emergency room medical malpractice claims will be able to identify potential negligence and cases that need expert review though. The attorneys at the Thistle Law Firm are such attorneys. If you believe you or a loved one was mistreated in the emergency room resulting in significant harm or death, the attorneys at the Thistle Law Firm are here to take your call at 215-568-6800.