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Health care errors cost billions in Kansas and across the U.S.

More than 250,000 employees who have been injured on the job and other patients are victims of medical mistakes in the U.S. every year, according to Health Affairs. The report estimated the errors caused by Kansas and other health care providers were an annual $17 billion blow to the U.S. economy.

Prescription errors ranked at the top of the list. Patient harm caused by pressure ulcers, post-surgical infections and back injuries were the leading physical mistakes.

Researchers learned medication errors involved 1.5 million patients every year at a cost of $3.5 billion to fix. The expense did not include the toll taken on patients' employers or workers who had lost incomes.

Health care field experts say human error rates will fall when doctors and other medical providers improve communication. Patients are also less likely to become victims of medical malpractice when they learn more and question doctors about drugs, treatments and procedures.

Doctors cannot be too busy to communicate correct prescriptions to a pharmacist. The pharmacist must properly measure and dispense the right medications. Patients can remain aware of the drugs they purchase and the treatments they receive, but the legal responsibility for quality patient care rests with medical professionals.

Egregious errors, like the removal of an incorrect body part during surgery, or wrong-patient operations, can be prevented through improved methods for patient identification. Doctors scheduled are hectic, which often places the work of patient verification with nurses or other staff members.

Each time a new person is involved in patient care, the chance for mistakes increase. A doctor tells a nurse which medications to give a patient. The nurse receives the proper instructions but doesn't pass the information along to a caregiver in the following shift. The patient is caught in the middle of the miscommunication.

Victims of a botched surgery, misdiagnosis or improperly prescribed drug can turn to a medical malpractice attorney for help.

Source: voxxi.com, "Medical errors costing the nation lives and more than $17B annually," Hope Gillette, Jan. 22, 2013

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