Reducing wrong-patient errors

Medical errors that result from misidentified patients plague the health care system in New Jersey and throughout the country. In an effort to improve the identification and tracking of patients, the Air Force Medical Service has chosen to use a two-point identification process. Air Force medical personnel will now ask for a patient’s full name and date of birth at multiple stages of care giving.

The Joint Commission chose to adopt this standard because verifying patients with two identifiers has proven to be an effective technique for reducing errors. This approach enables care givers to confirm who is front of them with a greater degree of reliability and to match each patient to treatment and medication instructions. The Air Force likened the redundancy to the safety checks performed within the aviation industry.

Mistakes based upon misidentifying patients can cause a wide range of problems. Serious errors, such as administering the wrong medication or operating on the wrong part of the body, illustrate the need to make patient identification a top priority among health care staff. Smaller issues abound as well, including information being entered into the wrong medical record and specimens going to laboratories with the wrong names. Mistakes like these can delay the diagnosis of diseases.

When a patient identity error results in a worsened medical condition, medical professional negligence could be to blame. In order to demonstrate hospital negligence, an attorney who is representing the plaintiff who has been harmed will need to show that the mistake constituted a failure to exercise reasonable care. In order to do so, the attorney might rely on the opinion testimony of one or more medical experts.

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