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Medical mistakes pose far greater risk than Ebola

With the recent media coverage surrounding the Ebola outbreak, many Americans assume that the disease is poised to sweep through the nation. In reality, however, American citizens who have not visited affected countries have virtually no risk of being exposed to the deadly disease. What does pose a risk for patients in Hawaii and elsewhere are medical errors. It is important to understand how the mistakes made by medical professionals can impact patients and their families.

Research suggests that close to one third of patients who are admitted to a hospital for medical treatment will be subjected to some form of medical error. These mistakes include surgical errors, mistakes in the administration of medication and surgical tools that are accidentally left within the body during surgery. While only a handful of Americans have contracted the Ebola virus, as many as 1,000 people are killed each and every day in this country because of preventable medical errors.

Patients can research their chosen medical facility by using online tools such as the Hospital Safety Score provided by the nonprofit company Leapfrog Group. The index ranks hospitals according to the number of medical errors reported. Facilities are given a grade from A to F, making it easy for individuals to make an informed decision.

When preparing for a surgical procedure, it can be difficult for families in Hawaii to know the range of risks that are faced. There are a number of potential negative outcomes of any medical procedure, and these risks are just part and parcel of modern medicine. However, no one should be subjected to medical mistakes that are entirely preventable, and being able to review the safety record of various hospitals is one step that can help empower families to take charge of their own safety.

Source: AARP, "Beyond Ebola-How Safe Is Your Hospital?", Elizabeth Agnvall, Oct. 29, 2014

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