Few people plan ahead of time to go to a hospital emergency room. Once there, fewer still enjoy being there. Nonetheless, if you prepare now and have the presence of mind to act at the time you find yourself in need of emergency medical attention, there are some ways you can reduce the risk of a medical mistake causing you serious harm. (see report on Worcester Area Hospitals).
Emergency rooms are usually overcrowded and understaffed and are stressful to be in. Doctors have to work at heightened speeds. If a doctor fails to properly diagnose your problem, or if his or her diagnosis is delayed, it does not mean that you necessarily have a lawsuit for medical malpractice. In order to win a suit for medical malpractice, you would have to show that another doctor, under the same circumstances, while exercising the standard duty of care, would not have made a similar mistake. When you factor in the difficulties of the emergency room environment, this can be tough to prove.
Also, a misdiagnosis is not always the doctor’s fault. Sometimes a doctor is handed subpar x-rays or inaccurate lab results and misdiagnoses patients based on that inaccurate information. Even a careless hospital janitor could cause you harm. Nonetheless, if you can not show that the staff member, technician, or radiologist acted negligently, you may not have recourse. This is one of many reasons why you will need a careful medical malpractice attorney to help you sort things out if you find yourself harmed in an emergency room.
It is best to avoid such problems altogether. Here are some things you can do to help protect yourself.
- Get your medical records together and tell someone. If you are severely injured, gravely ill, in great pain, or unconscious, you may not be able to tell the attending doctor answers to important questions. You may be in a hospital that you have never visited before where they have no access to your medical history. You do not want them prescribing you medicine that you are allergic to or implementing treatment that could cause you harm. If your records are easily accessible and organized, a doctor can quickly scan them and be up to date in short time. Often, important medical facts such as allergies or life-threatening conditions can fit on a piece of paper small enough to be carried in the wallet. More extensive histories can be carried on smartphones, but you would have to tell the first responders about the records on your phone if you are conscious.
- Tell the EMT where to go. Mistakes are most likely to happen when the doctor does not know you and can not quickly access or ascertain your medical history. Of course, the nature of your ailment could cause the ambulance to go straight to the nearest emergency room, but if the situation allows for it, make sure they take you to the hospital where you have previously received care.
- Take notes. If you remain alert during your emergency room stay, document everything. Do not rely on the hospital to provide you with a printout of all tests, diagnoses, and other important information. Often, the person treating you is not the same person summarizing your visit on paper. You would be surprised how important your own notes can be in a subsequent lawsuit. If more than one doctor is seeing you, it is not impolite to ask for a business card.