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Parents often catch medical errors doctors miss

According to a Harvard study, parents in Arizona and nationwide catch medical mistakes that their child's doctor missed in nearly 10 percent of cases. The study was published Feb. 29 in the online edition of JAMA Pediatrics.

In order to determine how frequently parents find medical errors that doctors do not, researchers examined the medical records of 383 children who were hospitalized between 2013 and 2014 at a Boston hospital. Parents filled out written surveys that listed any safety issues their kids encountered while at the hospital, and two physicians categorized the issues as medical mistakes, other quality issues or non-safety issues. Researchers found that 34 parents, or 8.9 percent, reported 37 safety issues. Of those reports, 62 percent, or 23 cases, were found to be medical errors and 24 percent involved other quality issues. The remaining 14 percent were determined to be issues that did not impact the child's safety or quality of care.

Of the 23 cases determined to be medical errors, researchers found that approximately 30 percent caused patient harm and were preventable. Examples of preventable errors included parents finding a foreign object left in their child's body after a procedure and a child's dressed wound getting contaminated with stool. Children who experienced medical errors were found to have longer hospital stays and were more likely to have either neuromuscular or metabolic conditions. Communication problems can be a contributor to medical errors, and researchers believe that children of non-English-speaking parents might be particularly vulnerable to medical mistakes.

Parents of children who have been harmed by doctor errors may benefit by speaking to an attorney about their legal rights. An attorney can review the patient's hospital records and obtain the opinion of medical experts in order to determine if the practitioner or facility failed to exercise the requisite standard of care.

Source: Reuters, "Mom and dad often catch hospital errors doctors missed," Lisa Rapaport, Feb. 29, 2016

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