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Preventable Medical Mistakes for Medicare Patients

November 23, 2010

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When you are seriously ill you typically go to the hospital for treatment to get better.  You expect that the hospital staff, nurses and doctors will give you the correct medication, manage your treatment properly and keep you safe while you are a patient.  However, according to a recent study, an alarming number of Medicare patients suffer from preventable medical mistakes during their hospitalizations.

The study done by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General randomly selected 780 Medicare patients in October 2008 who had been discharged from hospitals around the country.  USA Today reports  that “About one in seven Medicare hospital patients – or about 134,000 of the estimated 1 million discharged in October 2008 – were harmed from medical care.”  The study also estimates that hospital related mistakes contributed to 1.5% or approximately 15,000 Medicare patient deaths each month.  Medication errors alone were attributed to nearly half of the deaths.  Other mistakes include infections, surgical mistakes, giving the wrong medications or not properly monitoring medication side effects.

What can you do as a family member of a loved one?  Always ask questions and educate yourself about the medical condition being treated.  Never be afraid to inquire if something does not seem right.  Simply being an extra set of eyes and ears for the nursing staff can be very comforting to the patient.

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