No one wants to spend their time in the emergency room. Unfortunately, visiting the emergency room (ER) is sometimes a necessity. Whether you were involved in a car accident, suffered a fall, or were otherwise injured, the emergency room is often the best place to receive immediate medical care.
There are ample opportunities for things to go wrong in the ER, though. Around 130 million people go to the emergency room every year in the United States, and the sheer volume of patients can leave hospital staff overwhelmed. Nurses and doctors who do not have adequate time to properly evaluate or treat patients are more likely to make medical errors like misdiagnoses or other diagnostic errors.
Too Many Patients
At McMath Woods P.A., our medical malpractice attorneys have seen time and time again where problems like overcrowding have harmed patients. In an ER that is filled with too many patients (or even slightly more than they are accustomed to handling), the following occurs:
- Preventable medical errors increase
- Health care quality decreases
- Mortality rates increase
Hospitals should always hire enough nurses and doctors to fully staff emergency rooms. If these institutions fail to do so, they are putting patients at risk for serious injury or even death. Inadequate staffing is unfortunately not an uncommon factor in many medical malpractice claims.
Errors in the Triage Process
The ER does not operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Instead, nurses and other staff will triage patients to determine where they fit in the current line to receive medical care. The United States uses the START (simple triage and rapid treatment) triage system, which is an algorithm designed to be used for patients aged eight and older.
Using the START triage system, a nurse will evaluate you and your condition in ideally less than 60 seconds. You will be asked about your symptoms and why you chose to come to the ER. The nurse will also measure your vitals, including your pulse, respiratory rate, temperature, blood pressure, and more. You will be evaluated for the presence of bleeding and your ability to follow commands.
Children under the age of eight will be triaged using the Jump-START triage system. Although it is strikingly similar to the START triage system for older patients, Jump-START takes into account factors that are unique to children, such as an inability to follow commands.
Errors that occur in the triage stage prevent patients who need immediate medical care from seeing doctors as soon as possible. Any delay in care can have dire outcomes for individuals who are experiencing an emergency medical event.
It is also important to note that triage status can change. Nurses and other health care professionals in charge of triage must be prepared to re-evaluate patients when necessary, and move them up in the line.
Assessment and Treatment
Emergency room doctors may spend only a brief amount of time with patients before rendering a diagnosis, ordering additional testing, or deciding to send a patient home. With so little time to see so many patients, it may come as no surprise that errors occur in virtually every stage of emergency care, including during:
- An ER doctor must assess a patient’s condition to determine whether any testing, medication, surgery, or other intervention is needed. If a doctor incorrectly assesses a patient’s symptoms or condition, they could misdiagnose a patient as having something less serious or miss a diagnosis altogether.
- Test results. Any doctor or specialist who is in charge of reading and interpreting imaging or other test results can make errors. For example, a radiologist might report that there is nothing of note on an x-ray when it clearly shows a broken bone or cancerous lesion.
- Diagnosing and treatment. After assessing your condition and ordering any necessary testing, the doctor should render a diagnosis and treatment plan. If the doctor incorrectly diagnoses a patient or orders the incorrect treatment plan or medication, there is an opportunity for patient harm.
- There are two expected results at the end of any emergency room visit—being admitted to the hospital or being discharged. Patients who need in-patient care should be admitted to a room in the hospital and will suffer serious harm compared to if they are sent home instead.
Medical errors that our Little Rock medical malpractice lawyers frequently see include some of the following:
- Missed diagnosis
- Wrong-site surgery and other surgical errors
- Prescription medication errors
- Anesthesia errors
- Avoidable delays in treatment
- Failure to monitor vitals
- Hospital-acquired infections
Errors made at any point during an emergency room visit can be catastrophic and may lead to a worsening of your original condition as well as the development of co-morbidities and other health problems. Your physical health is not the only thing at stake, either.
Victims of medical malpractice also carry large emotional and financial burdens. The trauma of being harmed by someone you trusted with your health can be debilitating and often erodes trust in other health care professionals even as you need additional care. Related medical bills can also wreak havoc on your finances, especially if your medical malpractice injuries made it impossible for you to work.
Compensation for Medical Errors in the Emergency Room
You should not have to handle the aftermath of a medical error on your own. Our Little Rock medical malpractice attorneys can help you hold the doctor, hospital, and any other responsible parties responsible for their negligent actions if they led to your injury.
At McMath Woods P.A., we have what it takes to lay the foundation for a strong medical malpractice claim. From establishing that a given medical provider owed you a duty of care to showing how they violated that duty, we will collect evidence and craft a strong argument that supports your claim.
Our Little Rock medical malpractice lawyers know that this may be one of the most difficult periods of your life and will treat your case with the care and compassion that you deserve. If you are ready to take action, contact us to schedule a confidential consultation.