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Patient identification mistakes at hospitals

Instances of a mistaken identity can happen in a lot of different environments. In some contexts, such errors at worse will result in some embarrassment. In others though, such mistakes could be quite harmful. For example, at health care facilities, a misidentification of a patient could seriously endanger the patient’s health.

Recently, an ECRI Institute report looked into patient identity errors. These are mistakes in which one patient is confused with another. The report looked at over 7,600 such errors that were voluntarily reported by health care organizations. These errors came from over 180 organizations. They occurred between January 2013 and July 2015. ECRI officials postulate that these cases likely make up only a small portion of the patient identity mistakes that actually occurred.

While most of the mistakes the report looked at did not result in a patient getting hurt, there were a couple that were fatal and some others that resulted in serious harms.

The patient identity errors reported involved a wide range of different things including: registration, patient wristbands, lab work, tests, treatment and procedures.

So, this report underscores that wrong-patient errors are relatively common, can take many forms and have the potential to cause major harm.

There are many steps hospitals could take to try to prevent such mistakes, including:

  • Using barcode systems.
  • Incorporating regular patient identity checks into procedures.
  • Using uniform patient name conventions in electronic health care records.
  • Including patient pictures in electronic records.

One hopes that all New York hospitals will take appropriate measures to help head off these types of errors.

When a patient ends up being harmed because there was an identity mix-up or other mishap at a New York hospital, experienced medical malpractice attorneys can advise them on what avenues for seeking out fair compensation may be available.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Medical Record Mix-Ups a Common Problem, Study Finds,” Melinda Beck, Sept. 25, 2016

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