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Surgeries on wrong patients or sites continue to plague health care Contact Now

National Patient Safety Goals for 2020 target preventing common medical errors

Surgeries on wrong patients or sites continue to plague health care

Hospital accreditation organization The Joint Commission recently announced its National Patient Safety Goals for 2020.

As a former hospital administrator, I know that National Patient Safety Goals get the attention of hospital leaders. Importantly, they’re based on common quality of care concerns and problems that The Joint Commission identifies at hospitals nationwide during the accreditation process.

The 2020 National Patient Safety Goals include:

• Identify patients correctly: Believe it or not, even in 2019, there is still a significant problem with surgeons, operating room nurses, and other healthcare providers performing surgery or providing treatments to the wrong patients. I recently handled a medical malpractice lawsuit in Texas against a surgeon and hospital for performing surgery in the wrong patient.

Under this 2020 goal, doctors and nurses must use two different ways to identify patients. A separate goal requires making sure that the correct patient gets the correct blood during a blood transfusion. In 2019, a major hospital in the Texas Medical Center got unwanted attention when a patient died after he provided the wrong blood type for transfusion.

• Improve staff communication: This 2020 goal requires hospitals to have policies to ensure that important test results get to the right staff person on time.

In my experience as a Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer, critical lab results and diagnostic radiology findings sometimes fall through the cracks when lab personnel or radiologists rely on electronic systems, rather than picking up the phone and calling someone with important results.

• Use medicine safely: Three 2020 goals address medicine safety. First, before a procedure or surgery, personnel should label medications that aren’t already labeled. Second, hospitals need policies to provide extra attention to patients who take blood-thinners. Third, healthcare providers must accurately record patient medication information and make sure that it’s shared with the complete healthcare team.

• Use alarms safely: This 2020 National Patient Safety Goal focuses on improvements to ensure that medical equipment alarms are heard and responded to in a timely fashion. I’ve represented numerous clients who’ve told me that their monitors were sounding alarms, but nursing staff didn’t respond, even after they pressed the call button.

• Prevent infection: Five separate 2020 goals deal with getting back to basics when it comes to infection prevention. They include cleaning hands and using proven guidelines to prevent difficult-to-treat infections, central line infections, post-surgical infections, and urinary tract infections caused by catheters.

• Identify patient safety risks: This goal focuses on reducing the risk for suicide.

• Prevent mistakes in surgery: Three 2020 goals address the ongoing problem of wrong patient and wrong site surgeries. In my view, one of the best National Patient Safety Goals ever was the time-out procedure, which requires a pause before surgery to make sure that a mistake isn’t about to be made. The 2020 goals revisit this important part of operating room safety.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor hospital care, then contact an experienced, top-rated Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for legal help in evaluating your potential case.

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.


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