Patients have more options for medical care by seeking treatment in outpatient settings such as urgent care centers, day surgical centers and patient homes. Practitioners in outpatient centers must still meet, but often violate, the standard of care that applies to more traditional settings.
More patients are seeking care in outpatient facilities and also face the risk of medical malpractice or medical errors. Medical errors are mistakes by healthcare practitioners, which can harm patients, an action has not been completed as planned or using the wrong procedure.
Errors may happen in a practice, products, procedure, or system. These errors are typically made in these categories:
- Diagnosis involving a mistake or delay.
- Treatment errors in a surgical procedure, other procedure, medication, or testing.
- Preventive care including less-than-necessary monitoring or follow-up care.
Medical errors can be fatal or cause serious harm. Four in 10 patients are harmed in primary and outpatient care settings around the world, according to a 2020 report by the Foundation for the Innovation and Development of Health Safety. Thirty-six percent of these errors led to major surgery while almost 31% were fatal.
Playing a role in your care
Patients can help reduce the possibility of errors by playing a greater role in their care by taking these steps:
- Writing down your questions and condition and bringing this information to your appointment.
- Providing all of this information to your doctor even if there are interruptions.
- Asking the doctor to repeat information you do not hear or understand.
- Asking for written documents, diagrams, and illustrations.
- Repeating important information from your doctor for confirmation.
- Making sure all of your providers have a complete list of your medications, including over-the-counter drugs.
- If your diagnosis seems incorrect or does not fit your symptoms, ask for further explanations.
- Never assuming that tests are negative; contacting the facility for results.
- Getting second or third opinions from a different practice or facility and informing that doctor about your condition so they do not rely on other doctors’ notes.
- Never hesitating to share your concerns or questions.
Reducing mistakes in outpatient settings is a complicated task, according to the American College of Physicians. There are thousands of outpatient care providers in this country and many of these providers lack the time and resources to improve patient safety. Also, government patient safety efforts usually focus on hospitals that generally do not include outpatient settings.
The American College of Physicians issued recommendations on improving care in outpatient settings in 2017. These include:
- Having every employee focus on safety as part of their job.
- Encouraging employees to report errors and not penalizing them.
- Encouraging accurate and confidential reporting of events and matters that almost became a problem.
- Identifying and addressing practitioner stress, burnout and work environments that cause practitioners to commit errors.
- Engaging in patient and family education so patients and their families can ask pertinent questions about their care.
- Discussing medical information clearly and in plain language with patients and families.
- Using health information systems that emphasize patient safety.
- Cooperating and sharing information with the patient’s other healthcare providers.
Attorneys can evaluate your case and determine whether there are grounds for a lawsuit. They can also help you to seek compensation in a malpractice action.