Medical errors can seriously affect patients. While mistakes made may not affect health outcomes, sometimes fatal results may occur. A Johns Hopkins study discovered that over 250,000 people die in the United States each year because of medical errors. This makes it the third-leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer. One of the medical errors that are harming patients pertains to medical record documentation. Below are a few examples of how mistakes in entering medical records can cause real injuries to people.
A Young Florida Woman with Headaches
A 19-year-old Florida woman received metaphorical headaches from blatant errors in her medical record. Because of a chronic illness she has, she visits many medical specialists. As a result, she and her mother always request her medical records after each visit. This allows them to keep track of her medical records in the same place. If it were not for her constantly requesting her medical records, she might not have been able to catch these mistakes in time for mistreatment or misdiagnosis. After a visit to a woman’s health clinic in 2016, she requested her records as she usually did. However, there was something peculiar about the records she received. There was a note in the record saying that she had two children. It noted that one was still alive, and the other one died shortly after birth. According to the dates associated with that note, she would have had to have given birth to the first child at age 13. This made little sense, as she had never been pregnant. It was also not the first mistake either, as a previous record erroneously noted that she had diabetes. She did not find out about that specific mistake in her records until a doctor had asked her questions about her blood sugar. It was only after her appointment that she found the records that note this error. Unfortunately for the woman, trying to remove the pregnancies she never had from the record was difficult. She called the doctor’s office, notifying them that she has no children and has never been pregnant before. The assistant on the other end kept insisting that she was wrong and that the records were accurate. This person also insisted this pregnancy would not have been on record if she did not notify the doctor’s office about it. According to a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania, this is not an uncommon response. Doctors do not want to admit their mistakes, out of fear of being sued for medical malpractice.