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South Carolina patients get help with doctor error

Patients in South Carolina share responsibility for their own health following hospital discharge. Hospitals have developed programs to treat patients following discharge to guard against doctor error and misfiled prescriptions. However, many hospitals have not addressed the readmission problem or limited exposure to medical malpractice by elevating form over substance in developing these programs.

Post-discharge prescription errors lead to hospital readmission, particularly among elderly patients. A survey of 377 elderly patients at Yale-Haven Hospital, published in the 2012 Journal of Internal General Medicine, indicated that 81 percent of these patients suffered from prescription errors. These patients were taken off needed drugs, did not understand what the prescriptions were for, were prescribed the wrong drug or dose or never obtained a new prescribed drug.

In this post-discharge program, health care workers go to patient homes and often take simple measures such as writing large notes on prescription medications indicating when drugs should be taken. Patients are also trained to recognize early warning signs of health problems. For example, heart patients receive scales and keep weight logs because small weight gains may be caused by water retention-an indicator that a heart is not pumping adequately. Diets may be scrutinized.

Post-discharge care has required training health care workers who did not recognize simple prevention measures. Workers at one facility "didn't even know what a low-salt diet was," according to Hackensack University Medical Center's chief quality and safety officer. This diet is instrumental in preventing liquid retention.

The federal government has also recognized this problem. In October, the Medicare program began imposing financial penalties on facilities that have too many readmissions. Change has not come easily. Hospitals have continued old programs in the guise of providing better patient care.

Errors that lead to readmission are another factor, such as doctor error, which may harm patients or hamper recovery. Costs multiply with extended and repeated hospital stays and more patient care. A civil malpractice suit, however, may provide compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, therapy, rehabilitation, medical equipment, disability, accommodations and lost wages.

Source: Kaiser Health News, "Hospitals Offer Wide Array Of Services To Keep Patients From Needing To Return," Jordan Rau, Nov. 27, 2012

Philpot Law Firm, PA
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