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Here are some intriguing blogs brought to you by personal injury lawyers Salt Lake City UT residents can count on.

Utah Malpractice Cases Tied to Documentation Errors

Documentation Errors

An alarmingly high number of Utah malpractice cases have been linked to documentation errors in the medical setting. Mistakes in the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions may be the ultimate outcome of this poor documentation and recordkeeping. Whether documentation is incomplete, inaccurate or illegible, mistakes or negligence in patients’ medical charts can lead to adverse health consequences and even death. Any form of charting error, if it results in harm to the patient, may provide a strong basis to pursue a medical malpractice claim.

Inadequate Documentation

The rule of thumb regarding medical documentation says that if something isn’t noted in the patient’s record, it didn’t happen. Yet doctors and other health care professionals often fail to chart all important information. They may neglect to take a complete medical history, leaving out past illnesses or drug allergies that could affect the diagnosis or treatment of a health condition.

Medical professionals may also fail to fully detail a patient’s course of treatment or to note what was discussed during a patient visit. Documentation errors in some cases have been reported to involve an inaccurate or improper transcription of a doctor’s audio recorded notes for the chart. When information is left out of a patient’s official medical record, the omission can directly affect the outcome of treatment.

Electronic Charting Problems

Most healthcare facilities now document patient information electronically, through the use of e-charting tools. While this may help avoid documentation errors related to illegibility, it may lead to other issues. Many electronic chart applications utilize templates that automatically populate default information into a patient’s record. This may be convenient; however, it sometimes leads to inaccuracies in the medical record, particularly if medical professionals fail to correct any errors in the pre-filled data. In some cases, electronic charts reflect the fact that doctors often copy and paste medical records without taking care to update the patient information.

Errors in Medication Documentation

Medication errors harm millions of people across the country every year, and they are responsible for a significant number of malpractice lawsuits. Improperly documenting a patient’s medication can lead to the patient getting the wrong medication or the wrong dosage. Medical professionals in the hospital setting sometimes fail to record that a drug has been administered, which can lead to a toxic overdose when the patient receives the medication a second time.

In today’s medical setting, patients are typically handled by a team of professionals, including physicians, nurses and technicians. Accuracy in medical records is essential to provide a proper standard of care for patients. If you or a loved one has been adversely affected by errors in medical documentation, schedule a consultation with the professional attorneys at Rasmussen and Miner to discuss your Utah malpractice claim.

Death or Injury from Pacemakers and Defibrillators on the Rise

Pacemaker

Hundreds of thousands of people suffer death or injury from the very pacemakers or defibrillators intended to save their lives. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issues an increasing number of alerts, advisories and recalls of these devices each year. Read on to find out more about problems with mechanical heart devices.

Pacemakers and Heart Problems

Pacemakers are routinely implanted in patients who have bradycardia, or a slow heart rate. These devices monitor the heart and use electrical impulses to keep it at a safe rhythm. When pacemakers are functioning properly, they help to alleviate the fatigue, dizziness and fainting that are symptomatic of a slow heart rate. Patients can be alerted to possible problems with their pacemakers when the symptoms of bradycardia return. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to diagnose device malfunction, as some symptoms may be subtle or absent. And when equipment failures go unnoticed, serious health issues, injury or even death can be the unfortunate result.

Issues with Defibrillators

Like pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) are surgically implanted in patients with irregular heart rhythms. Defibrillators, however, are used to treat abnormally fast heart rates (tachycardia) and prevent cardiac arrest. These mechanical aids deliver a shock to the heart when a dangerous rhythm is detected. Death or injury from malfunctioning defibrillators is even more common than from pacemakers. A faulty ICD can cause the heart to contract poorly, delivering painful shocks and preventing blood from getting to the brain and other vital organs. Health can quickly deteriorate when a defibrillator fails, and death can result in a matter of minutes.

Legal Recourse for Injury from Pacemakers and Defibrillators

Pacemakers and ICDs are intended to be life-saving, not life-threatening. But every year an increasing number of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are filed as a result of malfunctions. Those who experience injury, and the families of those whose devices caused their deaths, may be able to obtain legal compensation. Medical device manufacturers may be held liable for harm defective products cause. Lawsuits are brought against companies for product design flaws or negligence in product labeling or instructions. Companies may also be held liable for errors that occur during the manufacturing process.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by medical equipment failure, you may be entitled to compensation for rehabilitation and other medical expenses. The courts may also award damages for pain and suffering or wrongful death. Contact the experienced attorneys at Rasmussen and Miner in Salt Lake City to schedule a consultation. They can assist you in making your case and obtaining justice for injury caused by pacemakers or other medical devices.

Catheter-Associated Infection Risks in Hospital Stays

Catheter Infection

Are you worried about potential infection risks during your hospital stay? Perhaps you should be. Hundreds of thousands of patients acquire an infection every year while in the hospital, unrelated to their illness or treatment. Of these infections, a full 40 percent are urinary tract infections, primarily resulting from improper catheter usage. Here’s what you need to know about catheter-associated infections acquired while in the hospital.

Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infections

A urinary tract infection (UTI) affects the kidneys, bladder and other structures of the urinary system. Patients with UTIs often experience burning and pain in the lower abdomen, burning during urination and an increase in urination frequency. Nearly 80 percent of all hospital-acquired urinary tract infections are attributable to indwelling or bladder-inserted urethral catheters. A catheter-associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI) occurs when bacteria enters the urinary tract through the inserted tube. Not only do CAUTIs cause pain and urinary difficulties, but they also increase the length of hospital stays and health care costs for patients.

Infection Risks from Hospital Catheter Usage

Catheter usage is quite common in hospitals, with about 20 percent of admitted patients getting catheters inserted during their stays. Prolonged use of a urinary catheter puts patients at the greatest infection risk for developing a CAUTI. While UTIs are generally simple to treat, this isn’t always the case for CAUTIs. Like other hospital-acquired infections, CAUTIs are often resistant to standard treatment protocols. Also, it may be difficult to diagnose a CAUTI, as the symptoms may be similar to those of the patient’s original medical condition. An untreated CAUTI can lead to a severe kidney infection, high fever and debilitating pain, making prompt treatment essential.

Reducing the Infection Risk of Catheter Usage

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, CAUTIs are reasonably preventable, and therefore, they do not reimburse hospitals for the costs of caring for patients who acquire these infections during hospitalization. Because of this, hospitals attempt reduce the infection risk for patients. Along with minimizing the use of indwelling catheters in patients, most hospitals try to reduce the duration of their use. Hospitals also have protocols for medical professionals to follow regarding proper usage techniques and the care of catheter patients. Nevertheless, the statistics show that not enough is being done to prevent this type of infection.

No should have to suffer an infection because of catheter use. If you or a family member have acquired a catheter-associated infection in a Utah hospital, contact the professionals at Rasmussen and Miner. You may be entitled to compensation related to infection risks and catheter use in the hospital.

Foreign Language Patients and Medical Malpractice

Medical Malpractice

Recent studies show that medical malpractice is more likely to occur when communication between a patient and medical professionals breaks down as the result of a language barrier. Doctors must ensure that patients have a clear understanding of questions, instructions and diagnoses. Likewise, patients must be able to clearly explain their symptoms to doctors and nurses. This can be quite a challenge with foreign language patients. The language barrier often causes patients and doctors alike to misunderstand each other, which increases the likelihood of incorrect treatment, injury or death.

A Growing Problem in the United States

According to the U.S. Census, almost 20 percent of people in this country speak a primary language other than English. Of this percentage, nearly 44 percent are considered to be “limited English proficient” (LEP). These individuals are likely to need assistance when communicating with doctors and other medical professionals, and that assistance isn’t always readily available. With the number of LEP residents increasing every year, the likelihood of medical miscommunication errors is certain to rise.

Obligations to Foreign Language Patients

It seems obvious that translation services should be available to LEP patients, yet this is unrealistic in many situations. Private doctors’ offices may not have immediate access to qualified interpreters, especially for less common languages. And even hospitals, with their extensive resources, may find it difficult to locate skilled translators. When doctors are unable to communicate effectively with a patient in English, they must endeavor to find another means of obtaining and providing critical information. This may involve the services of a professional certified interpreter, either in person or via conference or video call. It may also involve written communication, for translation of medical records and aftercare documents. Doctors who fail to seek out effective methods of communication put themselves at risk for medical malpractice liability.

Mistranslation and Medical Malpractice Errors

Inadequate or improper translation of medical instructions and information may also result in patient harm. The doctor may fail to understand the patient’s symptoms, leading to a misdiagnosis and incorrect treatment. The patient may misunderstand the treatment options available or how to take medication. Medical malpractice errors may not just be the fault of doctors, however. Nurses and medical support staff may also fail to communicate effectively with foreign language patients. In some malpractice cases, the hospital or medical establishment can be held liable for failure to provide professional translation services to patients who need it.

Patients who suffer injuries or medical complications as a result of foreign language miscommunication deserve compensation and justice. If you or a loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice due to improper translation or insufficient interpretive services, contact the experienced attorneys at Rasmussen and Miner in Salt Lake City, your local experts in medical malpractice.

Patient Falls are the Leading Cause of Injury in Utah Hospitals

Hospital Patient Falls

Patients who are injured in Utah hospitals today are most often the victims of slips and falls. When you visit the hospital, you expect treatment for a medical condition or injury. What you don’t expect is to fall and experience further injury. Yet, according to the National Institutes of Health, as many as 20 percent of patients checking into hospitals fall during their stay, and as many as 30 percent of these falls result in injury.

Causes of Falls in Hospitals

Patients who fall while in the hospital may suffer disabling injuries, including bone fractures and excessive external or internal bleeding. A serious fall may even lead to a patient’s death. Many factors contribute to patients falling and suffering injuries in the hospital, and chief among these is negligence by a medical professional or hospital staff member. Patients often fall when they are left unattended in treatment or recovery rooms. Nurses sometimes fail to provide proper care and supervision for patients who are disoriented and confused. At times, a delay in the nursing staff responding to a call bell leads to a patient falling. Environmental factors, such as cluttered hallways and slick floors, also cause many patients to fall.

Hospital Fall Prevention

Every hospital has fall prevention protocols in place, and these are intended to ensure patient safety. Typically, nurses are expected to complete a risk assessment of all patients to determine the likelihood of their falling while in the hospital. This evaluation includes checking the patient’s vision and walking ability as well as assessing the effects of his or her medical condition and medications. Patients who are designated in higher risk categories may be placed in rooms with easier bathroom access or that are closer to the nursing station. Patients may also be more closely monitored, either by the use of a bed alarm or by having a staff member remain in the room with the patient.

Legal Recourse for Patients

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services classifies patient falls as “never events,” meaning that they are completely preventable and should never occur. Most patients who fall and suffer injuries in the hospital do so because of medical malpractice in the form of negligence by a medical professional. Depending upon the severity of a fall, the patient may wish to file a medical malpractice suit to recover damages, especially if complications, serious injury or death result from the incident. A claim may be made against the hospital itself or against particular staff members, including doctors, nurses and support staff.

Patients who have suffered injuries due to falling have the right to compensation. If you or a loved one has suffered a fall while in the hospital, contact the professional attorneys at Rasmussen and Miner. Their experienced lawyers will be happy to discuss your case and determine the best course of action if you have suffered an injury in a Utah hospital.

Overworked Nurses’ Mistakes Can Lead to Medical Malpractice Suits

Nurse Mistake

Legal experts note a growing concern for medical malpractice instances that result from stressed-out, overworked medical personnel. A heavy workload and long hours can cause anyone to make mistakes, and when nurses make them, they can lead to devastating errors. Negligence and errors in medical treatment have traditionally been attributed mainly to doctors, but with the widespread nursing shortage, more and more malpractice lawsuits involving nurses are being filed.

High Turnover and Overscheduling

A high demand for nurses along with a low supply of skilled job applicants means that many nursing staff members must work standard shifts of 12 hours or double shifts of 16 hours or longer. Often, those overtaxed nurses may be responsible for more patients than they can reasonably or safely handle. This leads to frustration and job burnout, causing many nurses to leave their positions. Hospitals hire replacement nurses, but this can result in issues with senior staff, as they are compelled to continually work with new and inexperienced nurses. A high staff turnover means more patients suffer and medical malpractice errors are more likely to occur.

Negligence and Errors of Overworked Nurses

Many different types of medical malpractice errors occur when nurses are forced to work overtime hours and where the staff is stretched thin. Mistakes in recordkeeping are common and can result in a patient receiving the wrong dosage or the wrong medication. Overly busy nurses may miss symptoms and medication side effects in patients, and they may be negligent in providing proper care. Any of these medical malpractice errors can lead to serious complications for the patient, including adverse reactions to medications, injuries and even death.

Understaffed Hospitals Have Higher Rates of Complications

Research by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the University of Maryland School of Nursing have shown that the grueling work hours of nurses contribute to more medical complications in patients. According to the studies, patients in understaffed hospitals are more likely to suffer urinary tract infections, skin ulcers, pneumonia, shock and cardiac arrest. The rates of these and other medical malpractice errors made by nurses are highest in hospitals where nurses are required to work overtime. Hospitals with a shortage of qualified nurses also have higher death rates that can, at least in part, be attributed to nurses failing to adequately respond to a cardiac arrest rescue.

Making the mistake of checking into a hospital with overworked nurses can mean putting yourself at risk for medical complications, or worse. If you or a loved one has experienced negligence by a nurse that led to a medical complication, you deserve justice. In Salt Lake City, contact the professional attorneys at Rasmussen and Miner to discuss the facts of your medical malpractice case.

Does Bar Code Scanning Reduce Hospital Malpractice Incidents?

Barcode Scanning

In an attempt to reduce hospital malpractice claims for medication errors, nearly every hospital in the country has implemented bar code scanning procedures. This technology is designed to add extra safeguards to drug administration. For the most part, these electronic tracking systems do improve patient safety; despite this, medication errors have not disappeared or even significantly declined. Patients are still at risk of receiving the wrong drug or the wrong dosage, and nurses and other parties responsible for the barcode system are still at risk for hospital malpractice lawsuits.

Barcode Scanning Procedures

Hospital bar code systems are based upon the same technology as grocery store checkout scanners. In the hospital setting, the process begins when an order for medication is entered into a patient’s electronic record. The program verifies that the patient is not allergic to the newly prescribed drug and that it won’t cause an adverse interaction with the patient’s other medications. Drugs are then individually packaged and labeled with a barcode. At the patient’s bedside, nurses use a handheld scanner along with a mobile computer to scan the patient’s wristband and the medication to ensure that no errors are made in administration. The system sends out an alert if it detects the wrong patient, medication, dosage or administration time.

Nursing Bar Code Errors

Bar code systems are effective only when the nursing staff follows the correct procedures at all times. Negligence that leads to hospital malpractice claims does occur, however. Nurses sometimes find the technology time-consuming or inconvenient and they devise ways to work around it. They may override medication alerts or keep duplicate patient wristbands to make the scanning process easier. Nurses also get distracted, leaving medication unattended on computer carts, which they then administer without rescanning. Negligence in following scanning procedures can result in nurses being named in hospital malpractice lawsuits.

Problems with Bar Code Scanning Systems

As with any technology, electronic scanning and tracking systems can experience problems such as unreliable connectivity, glitches in programming and lifeless batteries. When nurses constantly encounter issues with the bar code scanning, it can be difficult for them to use the system correctly when administering medication. Following proper procedures can also be challenging in hospital units with high medication scan rates, such as surgery recovery units where stabilizing medication may need to be administered quickly and repeatedly. When barcode technology fails, or when a system is not properly designed, it can lead to hospital malpractice claims.

Hospitals have made great strides in improving patient safety by putting barcode systems in place. But these systems aren’t perfect, and patients still face the danger of possible negligence and medical errors. If you or a loved one has experienced a medication error due to improper drug administration that may be related to bar code scanning, contact the experienced attorneys at Rasmussen and Miner in Salt Lake City. Their professional attorneys will be happy to schedule a free consultation to discuss your hospital malpractice case.

Anesthesia Errors During Surgery

Anesthesia Errors

New research shows that anesthesia errors can occur frequently during surgical procedures. Fortunately, most are minor and can be recognized and corrected during surgery. Patients usually never even know when these minor errors occur, as problems may only be revealed when a serious medical issue or death results from the negligence of the anesthesiologist. More grave errors often lead to lasting and debilitating medical problems, and are a serious form of medical malpractice.

What Is Anesthesia?

Anesthesia is intended to alleviate pain during a surgical procedure and is widely used to put patients into an unconscious or semi-conscious state during an operation. The medications the anesthesiologist uses are meant to control heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. Regional anesthesia, which is used to put patients into a semi-conscious state, affects a large portion of the body by blocking a group of nerves or affecting the spinal cord. General anesthesia affects the body and brain and renders a patient unconscious during surgery.

Types of Anesthesia Errors

Though most anesthesiologists do not meet with patients prior to the day of the surgery, they are responsible for communicating with patients and checking the medical charts and patient history to identify any potential complications. Anesthesiologists are also responsible for making sure that equipment is well-maintained prior to usage. When anesthesiologists fail at fulfilling their responsibilities, they are negligent and cause anesthesia errors.

Anesthesiologists may be negligent in their responsibilities in a variety of ways. They might administer the wrong drug or the wrong dosage of a particular drug, which can present serious complications in the case of a medical allergy. Anesthesiologist errors also occur when the anesthesiologist fails to monitor a patient’s vital signs or administers medication too late in the procedure. Other errors happen as a result of inadequate patient communication or negligence in maintaining or using the medical equipment.

Ramifications of Anesthesia Errors

Among the various types of surgical errors, anesthesia errors often result in the most serious medical problems and are also most frequently deadly errors. When an insufficient medication dosage is given to a patient, he or she may regain consciousness during the operation, experiencing incredible pain but be unable to move or communicate. This type of trauma can have a lasting psychological effect on a patient, leaving him or her with an anxiety disorder, sleeping problems or another mental disability. An overdose of anesthesia can cause a patient’s oxygen level to decrease, which can cause a heart attack, stroke, brain damage or even death.

Anesthesia and surgical errors occur more often than many people think, and they can lead to significant health complications. If you or a loved one has experienced a medical problem due to an anesthesiologist’s negligence, contact the professionals at Rasmussen and Miner in Salt Lake City to schedule a free consultation to discuss your medical malpractice case related to hospital, surgery or anesthesia errors.

How to Win Your Hospital Malpractice Case

Hospital Malpractice

Hospital malpractice lawsuits, like any other malpractice cases, can be challenging to prove and win. When pursuing a case against a large medical institution, additional complications and requirements must be addressed. To win this type of lawsuit, you must provide evidence that addresses three key aspects of your malpractice case. Read on to learn more about how to pursue a negligence case against a hospital or other medical institution.

Prove Employee Negligence

Evidence that a medical professional’s act or failure to act took place is the cornerstone of any medical malpractice suit. For a hospital-specific case, proof of this negligence can take many forms. It could be based on a nurse’s administration of incorrect medication, for example, or on a technician’s improper use of anesthesia. This evidence could involve showing that a doctor neglected to order necessary diagnostic tests or misdiagnosed a medical condition. A successful hospital malpractice case could also demonstrate that substandard procedures or conditions caused an infection that could have been prevented.

Prove Consequences of Hospital Negligence

Any malpractice lawsuit involves proving that a medical professional was negligent in some manner. To win your case, however, it isn’t enough to prove that a medical error occurred. You must also show that you experienced damage or further harm as a result of the error. Perhaps negligence caused you to lose past or future income. Or maybe a surgical mistake has left you physically or psychologically impaired. Whatever the consequences of the medical professional’s mistake, you must provide evidence that it is significant enough to support a hospital malpractice case.

Prove Hospital Liability

To win your case, you must demonstrate that the hospital was responsible for the negligence that took place. It is vital to prove that an employee relationship existed between the institution and the negligent medical professional. This is not always a straightforward endeavor. While most nurses, technicians, residents and interns are hospital employees, many doctors are independent contractors. To prove that a hospital is liable for a doctor’s medical error, you must show that the doctor is an employee. This could mean showing evidence demonstrating that the medical institution controls the doctor’s working hours or fees. In some cases, the institution may be held liable if the plaintiff was led to believe that the doctor was an employee of the hospital.

A successful medical malpractice case against a hospital must not only demonstrate that a negligent act or error caused you harm, but also that the hospital is responsible for this medical negligence. If you are considering filing a lawsuit, schedule a consultation with the experienced attorneys at Rasmussen and Miner in Salt Lake City. Their knowledgeable legal team can help you with every aspect of your hospital malpractice case.

Was Medical Malpractice to Blame for Joan Rivers’ Death?

Joan Rivers

Statistics show that medical malpractice is to blame in a high percentage of surgery-related deaths. The circumstances of comedienne Joan Rivers’ death in 2014 seem to indicate that medical malpractice was involved, although it hasn’t yet been proven. Two separate investigations, one by the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and one by the New York State Health Department, are working to address concerns regarding the manner of her death. Rivers’ daughter, Melissa, has officially filed a negligence lawsuit.

Adequate Patient Consent May Have Been Lacking

Joan Rivers died after having an elective throat procedure at the Yorkville Endoscopy Clinic in Manhattan, which was expected to be routine. Sources show that Rivers checked with her cardiologist for clearance for the endoscopy; however, many have speculated that Rivers wasn’t properly informed of the potential risks. Based on her age, she should not have been given clearance for the surgery even if she was in good health. In addition, allegations have been made over the clinic’s failure to obtain consent for performing a biopsy procedure while Rivers was sedated.

The Procedure Itself May Have Been Mishandled

Because the surgery was done at an outpatient surgical facility rather than in a hospital, the malpractice investigations are focusing on the clinic’s performance of the procedure and how the staff handled the medical emergency. The defendants have been accused of failing to recognize signs that Rivers was in medical distress, and of continuing to operate on Rivers even after her heart rate and blood pressure began to drop.

Medical experts are attempting to determine how long Rivers’ brain was deprived of oxygen before she was transferred to Mount Sinai Hospital, as a delay in emergency treatment could have lead to her death. Investigators will also decide whether the use of the drug Propofol as an anesthetic contributed to the comedienne’s demise. The clinic itself is under fire as well in the official medical malpractice case, as concerns have been expressed over whether the surgical center had the necessary equipment on hand to deal with medical emergencies.

Was Rivers’ Death Caused by Medical Malpractice?

The malpractice case Melissa Rivers filed contends that the comedienne’s death was entirely preventable. If this is true, especially if the investigations show that Rivers was not appropriately informed of the risks of having the procedure, or if proper consent was not obtained, a jury may find that negligence did indeed cause her death. If it is proven that proper medical practices were not followed during the surgery or when the routine procedure turned into an emergency situation, a jury may find that medical treatment malpractice was the cause of Rivers’ death.

Have you lost a loved one during or immediately after a routine surgical procedure, like the family of Joan Rivers did? If so, you may have grounds for pursuing a negligence case against the doctor and surgical facility. The experienced attorneys of Rasmussen and Miner in Salt Lake City can help. Contact them today to discuss your medical malpractice case.