The Joint Commission, which accredits 18,000 health care organizations nationwide, recently established the Center for Transforming Healthcare to explore solutions for critical quality and safety problems in the industry. The first basic issue that the center targeted is handwashing, the most obvious hygiene practice that any health care worker should follow. Poor compliance with hygiene protocols contributes to the many deaths from infections that occur in American hospitals every year.

The center continues to identify medical safety issues that foster risks of surgical errors and other risks to patients. The latest initiative is to find ways to reduce the potential for miscommunication when a patient is moved from one department to another.

“There are 4,000 hand-offs a day in a typical teaching hospital,” the Joint Commission’s President, Mark Chassin, recently told the Wall Street Journal. “If 90 percent go flawlessly, that’s still 400 failures per day.” The center found in a limited study of facilities that the rate of mistakes during hand-offs was considerably higher at 37 percent. Other data shows that four out of five serious medical errors are related to hand-off problems.

Misidentification of patients or sharing of erroneous information between caretakers can lead to several types of medical malpractice, including wrong-site surgery, administration of incorrect drugs and improper dosages. The center cites several features of the institutional culture of hospitals that create problems: a lack of teamwork, hurried transfers, overworked staff and haphazard communication methods. But correcting entrenched problems will take time, and families harmed by malpractice must turn elsewhere for meaningful solutions.

Protecting Society From Medical Malpractice

Patients can suffer harm in a wide variety of health care contexts, from emergency rooms to delivery rooms to operating rooms. When a health care professional’s errors lead to a birth injury, misdiagnosis or improper use of anesthesia, a family may need to explore legal options to protect their future interests.

A lawyer who understands the complex nature of medical malpractice litigation can quickly advise a potential plaintiff about his or her prospects for recovery and the best way to obtain further medical help. By providing individuals with a private right to assert legal claims, our system of civil litigation provides hospitals, doctors, nurses and health care administrators with an incentive to improve and adhere to professional standards.