Montana residents may find it interesting to learn that, according to a report by Patient Safety America, an organization that educates patients about potential risks they may find themselves facing in hospitals and medical institutions, an estimated 440,000 people annually lose their life as a direct result of medical errors in hospitals in the United States.

According to the report, some examples of the kind of errors that have been linked to patient deaths are patients being administered the wrong prescription drugs, and patient acquiring infections during their hospital stay simply due to doctors or nurses who neglect to adequately wash and disinfect their hands. Still others died because they failed to receive necessary testing and treatment leading to a worsened condition or misdiagnosis. In fact, according to the report, medical errors were the third leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer.

In fact, the 19-year-old son of the author of the study passed away after a couple of cardiologists at two separate hospitals made medical mistakes. According to the author of the report, the doctors failed to diagnose his son’s condition and therefore failed to adequately treat his irregular and abnormal heartbeat. Following the tragic loss of his son, the author dedicated his life to improving and educating the public about patient safety in hospitals.

The report notes that some hospitals are better at communicating with each other, and better communication reduces medical, and medication, errors. Furthermore, the study notes that instituting a strict hand washing protocol significantly helps decrease infections acquired during hospital stays. Additionally, the study notes that informed patients and patients who play an active role in treatment can help minimize and prevent medical errors. Some other tips include having a patient advocate, such as a family member, present during treatment, educating oneself on the treatment, medications and hospitals as much as possible and, finally, documenting and keeping a detailed record of what is occurring.

Source: Consumer Reports, “Survive your hospital stay,” March 27, 2014