Medical Transcription Errors Threatens Lives

Over 50,000 individuals die each year in hospitals due to some kind of preventable medical error. Not only do medical transcription errors cost thousands of lives each year, but the financial burden that these errors carry is truly enormous. Anywhere from $17 billion to $29 billion are lost annually because of medical errors in the United States. While healthcare professionals continue their attempt to diminish errors and improve overall safety in hospitals and medical centers across the country, the healthcare system is far from perfect.

A recent transcription error case proves that the public is no longer willing to sit still while these life-threatening mistakes are made, especially at such alarming rates. In this particular case, a female diabetic required insulin and when the care facility that she was discharged to attempted to get her records, they were not readily available. The facility then relied on a discharge summary given to them by her physician at a hospital. The doctor dictated that the patient was to receive 8 units of insulin, but the medical transcription service wrote “80 units” instead. This service is used to turn the doctor’s orders into a written document.

As a result, the diabetic patient was given 10 times the dosage that the doctor had specified and died. Taking only an hour to deliberate, the jury returned a verdict of $140 million, which was twice of what the plaintiff had asked for. This disturbing story only scratches the surface of the serious problem occurring in hospitals across the nation. A simple typo led to the death of an innocent diabetic patient. Sadly, as the medical community continues to age, these problems are likely to continue and may get even worse.

The healthcare industry must continue to find better ways to communicate as the population ages and requires more and more medical assistance. Medication use processes must improve drastically to reflect a higher demand for medical services and a recent increase in medical errors. From prescribing to documenting to transcribing to dispensing to administering and to monitoring, medication errors must be curbed significantly. As a patient, be sure to play an active role with your medical team. Ask questions, double-check, and never be afraid to ask about specific medications and dosages.

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