Articles Posted in Medical Errors

A new study suggests that doctors are more likely to skip screenings and otherwise make mistakes with patients later in the day. According to a JAMA Network Open study, doctors ordered fewer breast and colon cancer screenings for patients with an afternoon appointment – despite the fact that all patients were due for a screening. According to the study, the doctor was most likely to order a medical screening for his patient with an 8 AM appointment. By 4 PM, the likelihood that the doctor would order screens for their patient had dropped by 10 to 15 percent.

Other studies have confirmed that poorer outcomes for patients are more likely in the afternoon. A 2014 study, cited by The New York Times, found that doctors were more likely to dole out unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions in the afternoon. In fact, the likelihood of an unnecessary antibiotic is 26 times higher for a 4 PM appointment compared to an 8 AM appointment.  Other studies located by the New York Times found that patients were less likely to receive the flu vaccine and more likely to receive prescription opioids for back pain. Even the amount of hand washing by doctors fell during the afternoon hours.

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With more doctors putting in long hours, the profession now carries one of the highest risks of burnout. According to the AMA, physicians suffer from “burnout” roughly twice the rate for the general population. The blame, according to doctors, lies in the corporatization of healthcare which has rapidly accelerated over the last decade. Doctors say that corporate healthcare chains squeeze as many patients as possible onto each doctor attempting to maximize their revenue. This leaves doctors without adequate time to diagnose a patient, record their medical information, and deal with their health insurance companies. In a New York Times article, the author states that doctors work nights and weekends to adequately care for all their patients at “a high personal cost.”

Regulations also eat up an unnecessary amount of time, according to doctors. The E.M.R. or Electronic Medical Record appears especially burdensome. Data shows that primary care physicians are now spending two hours typing into the E.M.R. for each hour spent with their patients. The time spent on the E.M.R. does not even include the compliance workshops and continued medical education required of all doctors.

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A disgraced doctor pleaded guilty to three charges of manslaughter last week in Queens, according to The New York Daily News, Indicted on felony charges last year, Dr. Lawrence Choy ran a ‘pill mill’ out of his Queens office from 2012 to 2016. The former doctor routinely prescribed the so-called ‘Holy Trinity’ of drugs to his patients – an opioid, a benzodiazepine, and a muscle relaxer. All three medications are both extremely addictive and extremely dangerous because of their ability to suppress breathing and cause an overdose. Tragically, Dr. Choy’s reckless prescribing habits caused three of his patients to fatally overdose.

After the deaths of his patients, Dr. Choy closed his medical practice and fled to Wyoming. The long-distance move did not matter to federal authorities who charged Dr. Choy with 231 crimes last year in a complaint detailing the doctor’s recklessness and indifference to his patient’s suffering. According to prosecutors, Choy’s pill mill in Queens was popular across the entire northeast – patients from New Jersey and Pennsylvania routinely made the trip just to visit Choy. According to federal prosecutors, Choy began doling out oxycodone prescriptions beginning in 2012 when Choy received a tax bill for more than $1 million. Once word got out that Choy would exchange prescriptions for cash, addicts would travel to the Queens doctor to get their fix and drug dealers would travel to get their supply. A single oxycodone pill prescribed by Choy could be sold for $30 on the street, less than the cost of a month’s prescription without insurance.

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An ophthalmologist is facing a lawsuit and revocation of his medical license after operating on the wrong eye. The Chicago woman, Sutton Dryfhout, says she came in for a routine cyst removal surgery and experienced a living nightmare. According to Dryfhout, Dr. Benjamin Ticho realized his mistake after the surgery when Dryfhout was already in post-operative care. Amazingly, the doctor chose to attempt surgery on the correct eye – with Dryfhout no longer under anesthesia. The lawsuit filed by Dryfhout says Dr. Ticho came into the recovery room and told a nurse that he “forgot something” and then asked them to hold down the patient while he attempted to operate on her left eye. The nurse allegedly complied.

Speaking to New York Daily News, Dryfhout said she screamed and yelled for Dr. Ticho to stop and that she could “[feel] surgical instruments including a needle and scissors going into her eye and could feel burning from a cautery pen being used on her eye.” Dryfhout also alleges the ophthalmologist did not follow proper hygiene protocols by using unsterile equipment and performing the entire operation without gloves. After the impromptu surgery on the correct eye ended because of Dryfhout’s screams for help, Dr. Ticho allegedly went to the patient’s medical records and consent forms and changed all references to performing surgery on her “left eye” to her “right eye.”

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Two New Yorkers sued their doctor and fertilization clinic after the alleged medical malpractice caused a tragic mix-up involving three sets of angry parents across the country. According to CBS New York, Annie and Ashot Manukyan went to CHA Fertility Center in Los Angeles for in-vitro fertilization treatments. After the treatment, the New York couple did not become pregnant. Unfortunately, that is because their genetic material was used to impregnate another couple in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles couple actually became pregnant with twins who they believed was their child. Unfortunately, the couple was carrying the child of the Manukyans and another Los Angeles couple. The parents found out at birth of the mix-up when one of their children was a different race than the parents.

The Manukyan’s were immediately notified and because the birth parents wanted to keep the child, they had to sue in New York courts to have their genetic child brought to them. In a recording released by the attorneys for the Manukyan’s, the genetic mother broke down crying when she discussed her heartbreak over not carrying and delivering her own child. The New York judges ruled in favor of the birth parents and the child is now living in New York.

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An outbreak of a rare blood infection in a New York hospital traced back to an opioid-stealing nurse, reports Gizmodo. According to the technology and science website, six cancer patients developed a serious and rare blood infection from June to July 2018 at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York. According to the website, none of the victims died as a result of being infected by Sphingomonas paucimobilis.

The bacterial infection is typically found in soil and water, thus rarely harming people. When six people all came down with the infection – which sickens individuals to the point of constant vomiting – hospital authorities say they suspected a medical contamination. After an investigation at the hospital, authorities realized the common thread between the patients involved a nurse who administered their hydromorphone intravenously.  Hydromorphone is a powerful opioid. In response to questions by hospital investigators, the nurse admitted that she removed a certain amount of medication for the patients and then diluted the syringe with water so the dosage appeared unchanged.

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New York hospitals continue to rank poorly compared to the rest of the country, according to the nonprofit LeapFrog’s rankings released last month. According to Washington D.C. organization, which ranks hospitals on 12 factors related to patient safety and then assigns a letter grade between A and F to each hospital, New York is the 47th worst state for patient safety at hospitals. Just 7.5 percent of New York hospitals received an “A” – a pathetically low percentage compared to states like Maine, Utah and Virginia, which received “A” at 50 to 60 percent of their hospitals. 

The Empire State has almost three times as many hospitals with a “D” rating (30) than an “A” rating (11), according to LoHud.com. Unlike the federal government which takes medical outcomes and other indicators of quality into account when assigning its maligned star-rating system, Leapfrog Group focuses on preventable safety issues. Examples include mistakes like leaving sponges or medical equipment in bodies or preventable infections caused by unsanitary conditions. The nonprofit told Lohud.Com that its ranking system provided more helpful information to patients “because it focuses on the most serious life-or-death measures.” 

Here are the patient safety rankings for hospitals in the Hudson Valley, published for Fall 2019: 

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Every year, hospitals across the United States are graded on their record for patient safety by the federal government and a nonprofit organization, Leapfrog Group. The federal government uses a “star-based” rating system where hospitals receive a grade between one and five stars, with a one-star rating representing a hospital with serious and widespread safety problems. According to LoHud.com, New York had 48 one-star facilities in the state. Six of these unsafe hospitals were in the Hudson Valley.
Leapfrog Group focuses on more “preventable safety issues”, according to the local newspaper. The metrics used in Leapfrog’s calculations focus on the rate of “infections and medical mistakes, like sponges or tools left in bodies” or “complications such as collapsed lungs.” The nonprofit group assigns a letter grade to each major hospital in the country, which range from an “A” to an “F.” The researchers at Leapfrog point to a study by Johns Hopkins University that found 160,000 deaths each year are caused by “hospital-acquired” conditions – such as infections. Of the 30 hospitals receiving a “D” or “F” grade in New York, two are located in the Hudson Valley. According to Leapfrog, only 12 percent of hospitals nationwide receive a letter grade below “C”.

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According to The New York Times, long-term care hospitals continue to provide poor care to elderly Americans. Long-term care hospitals, also called long term acute care hospitals, provide care typically after a person is being discharged from intensive care and is too sick to return to their nursing home. Close to 400 long-term care hospitals exist in the United States, a number that has dipped in the last decade after skyrocketing in the 90s from just 38.

The proliferation of long-term care hospitals during the period is now largely regarded as unnecessary and many elder care advocates say they harmed individuals while enriching their owners. Because patients at these hospitals are so sick, the hospital receives hefty sums performing multiple procedures and diagnostics on their patients. In 2017 alone, Medicare – which pays for two-thirds of all long-term care stays – paid out an eye-wateringly high 4.5 billion to these several hundred hospitals.

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New York City amended its opioid lawsuit against Purdue Pharmaceuticals to include the company’s owners, the Sackler family, as well as several retailers and pharmacy chains, including CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, and Walmart. The lawsuit alleges that Purdue Pharmaceuticals, maker of OxyContin, deceptively marketed their addictive drugs under the direction of their owners, the Sackler family, and the retailers who dispensed the drugs enabled the opioid epidemic currently ravaging communities across the country. In addition to increasing the number of defendants allegedly responsible for contributing to the opioid epidemic, the lawsuit also consolidated dozens of lawsuits filed by other local governments.

The consolidation of lawsuits and inclusion of the popular drugstores was widely expected, the group of defendants is being sued by local governments across the country and by the federal government. The inclusion of the Sackler family, on the other hand, was a recent development in the opioid cases. According to The New York Times, a lawsuit against Purdue Pharmaceuticals in Massachusetts unearthed emails showing members of the Sackler family were “far more involved” than previously believed. According to the lawsuits against the company, Purdue Pharmaceuticals deceptively marketed Oxycontin, a powerful and addictive opioid, as appropriate for long-term pain management and claiming, without evidence, that “less than one percent of [Oxycontin users] become addicted.” The aggressive promotion of Oxycontin led to $1 billion in annual sales within a few years and is now widely understood to have ignited the country’s opioid epidemic.

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