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Many medical errors occur outside of hospitals

These days, most Americans' health care is handled in "ambulatory care facilities" such as outpatient clinics and doctors' offices rather than in hospitals. We go to these facilities for regular check-ups, when we're sick or injured and even for minor surgical procedures. That means that many medical errors as well as other "safety events" occur in these facilities.

A recently published study by the watchdog group and patient safety organization (PSO) ECRI Institute looked at over 4,000 safety events in ambulatory care facilities to determine the biggest patient safety risks. The three most common safety events, in order, were:

Diagnostic testing mistakes (47%): Almost 70% involved lab tests. Just over 20% involved imaging tests.

Medication errors (27%): These errors were the most common cause of medical malpractice suits against ambulatory care facilities. Most of these involved adverse interactions with other drugs or wrong frequency or dosage.

Falls (14%): Most of these occur in exam rooms. However, they can occur in other parts of the facility, including the waiting room or restroom or even outside. Medical facilities need to make sure that they minimize fall risks since many of their visitors are old, ill and have conditions or are on medications that can make a fall more likely.

The head of the ECRI Institute noted, "As healthcare delivery shifts from hospitals to ambulatory care settings, it can be challenging to coordinate care among various clinicians, systems, and facilities, raising the potential for errors that put patients at risk." He added, "Reducing and eliminating adverse events in an outpatient environment will require an unprecedented commitment to collaboration and coordination."

If you or a loved one has been harmed by a mistake or by negligence in an ambulatory care facility that you believe could and should have been prevented, it's wise to determine whether you have grounds for a malpractice suit to seek compensation for related expenses and damages. An experienced attorney can provide valuable guidance.

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