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Pennsylvania organization looks at hospital alarm monitor errors

Hospitals attempt to avoid medical malpractice suits every day. But the reality is that in some instances patients suffer injury or worsened medical conditions because of hospital staff negligence.

Recent data offered by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority takes a closer look at one particular type of hospital error, associated with the alarm monitoring process. Specifically, analysts looked at the medical records to see if there was any connection between monitoring errors and deaths.

There were several keywords that analysts were watching for:

  • alarm
  • monitor
  • EKG
  • Defibrillator
  • Intensive care unit

Once those words were flagged, they checked to see if any of these incident reports reported the death of a patient. If the incident involved an alarm monitor error, it was studied to determine the possible cause of the error.

There were a number of different causes of this type of error. In some cases, the error was caused by a hospital staff member, whether that was nurse or a technician. For example, in two separate instances the nurse silenced the alarm. Analysts also found the several deaths were due to equipment failure.

When patients are in the hospital, they expect that the staff is providing reasonable care during their stay. Failure to do so can seriously harm the patient. A worsened health condition can impact a patient physically and financially, resulting in additional medical bills for treatment and medication that may not have been necessary prior to the error.

Patients who are the victim of a hospital or doctor negligence can seek compensation for their losses. A medical malpractice claim will not necessarily restore the patient to their previous health condition, but it can help defer some of the costs that can arise.

Source: CMIO: "Provider error accounts for most monitor-related deaths in Pa." Pennsylvania Patient Authority, Aug. 31, 2011

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