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Consumer Reports study underscores high number of hospital errors

A central and obvious irony that has been long noted about hospitals by medical industry commentators is that, while they are places where sick people go to get better, they are also locales where ill patients often get even sicker as well.

A recent media article focusing on hospital-based medical errors cites the sad outcome realized by one New York family, as related by the daughter of an elderly man.

That man had hip-replacement surgery at a Manhattan hospital. The procedure was successful, but, as sometimes happens with post-operative patients, the aftermath was tragic.

The woman's father contracted a hospital-acquired staph infection, which turned out be deadly.

Such an outcome is anything but singular in American hospitals, with a Consumer Reports study noting this flatly astounding figure: Reportedly, about 1,000 people are victimized by preventable drug errors in American hospitals every day. The magazine further reports that one or more medical mistakes are visited on close to 30 percent of all patients who spend time in medical facilities across the country.

And then there is this numbing statistic, noted by Consumer Reports and widely acknowledged as true by many diverse sources that provide medical information: As many as 440,000 hospital patients in the United States die annually from preventable errors inflicted upon them while they are hospitalized.

Can a patient better the odds that he or she will leave a hospital unscathed by a facility-derived mistake?

The above-cited article and many others respond affirmatively, noting that safety outcomes can be materially improved for persistent and aware patients.

Centrally, that means being proactive about asking questions, taking notes, soliciting family members' involvement in communicating with medical staff members and insisting on hospital workers' constant adherence to hygienic practices and policies.

Indeed, while hospitals can indeed be safe and life-saving venues, it is often the purposeful conduct of patients that makes them so.

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