Study shows medical record mix-ups are more common than we think

Many people believe that medical record mix-ups are terrifying but rare. A new study by the ECRI Institute says otherwise. The report found 7,613 cases of wrong-patient error at 181 health care organizations over the period of three years. The number spread out over several hospitals and three years might not seem so scary but the cases were submitted voluntarily by the hospitals. This means that the number only contains a small fraction of the actual number of mix-ups which occurred.

Medical record mistakes are a huge threat to patients

One small slip up from a clinician can be deadly or life altering when it comes to medical records. Take an example of a Winter Park, Florida woman who had a false cancer diagnosisdue to a record mistake. She ended up having a surgery to remove a section of her rectum and later found out that the cancer diagnosis was for a different patient. The woman proceeded with a lawsuit against the hospital.

Some suspect that accidental medical record switches are happening more often because of our ever evolving health care system. As health care in America becomes more complex the possibility for record mistakes increases. Doctors are doing more imaging, lab testing, complex procedures, and moving patients more. Every added step creates a new place for possible error.

When do the mix-ups happen?

In the study it was found that 13 percent of identification errors happened during patient registration. This was due to duplicate records or when two people’s information was merged. More than 33 percent of the mix-ups occurred during diagnostic testing such as lab work. 22 percent were during procedures and treatments. Fortunately out of the 7,613 mixed-up cases reported, most of them were caught before anyone was harmed. 91 percent of the switched charts were identified.

Many of the patients avoided catastrophe because someone identified them correctly. Unfortunately some patients are not so lucky. If you or someone you know has suffered because of a medical record mix-up then you could seek compensation in a medical malpractice lawsuit.