10 Things Your Hospital Won’t Tell You
Our Orlando Medical Malpractice Attorneys Explain
As medical malpractice lawyers, we have seen many cases of medical negligence or malpractice by physicians and/or medical facilities. And while we are here to assist you in getting appropriate compensation for injuries you may have sustained as a result of medical negligence, we would much prefer that you never have to experience the pain and suffering associated with these types of errors.
So, before you or a loved one enter a medical facility for any type of procedure, please consider the following potential problems or areas of concern:
- Errors in treatment
Errors in medical treatment have become a serious problem for hospitals and patients in recent years. These errors range from incorrect medication to operations on wrong body parts. Approximately 1.5 million patients are harmed each year by being given the wrong drug. The reason the margin of error is so high in America’s hospitals is because only 10 percent are fully computerized and have access to a central database to track allergies and diagnoses. If you are a patient in a hospital, you should make sure you have a friend or family member at your side to take notes and make sure the correct medicines are being dispensed.
About 2 million people a year contract hospital-related infections while in the hospital, and about 90,000 die from these infections. The recent increase in antibiotic-resistant infections and the rising cost of health care have spurred the health care community to implement measures to reduce infections, such as using clippers instead of a razor when shaving surgical sites and giving antibiotics before a surgical procedure and stopping them soon after to avoid drug resistance. One easy way for you to reduce the risk of infection when you are in the hospital is to make sure any hospital staff that touches you has washed their hands. Also, tubes and catheters can be a source of infection, and should be removed as soon as medically possible.
- Finding the person “in charge”
When in the hospital, getting the attention of the right person to answer your questions can be difficult, and it is also hard to tell who is in charge of your medical care. It is important to know the chain of command in the hospital, get names of staff, know your attending physician’s name and telephone number, and in an emergency, demand to speak with a nurse supervisor, the highest ranking staffer who is usually immediately available.
- Hospital bills are negotiable
Medical bills have become a major cause of bankruptcy in the United States. Medical bills that go unpaid are sent to a collections agent, who will take up to 25 percent of whatever is reclaimed, which gives the consumer a bargaining tool when dealing with the hospital billing office. If you are unable to pay your hospital bill, speak with someone in the patient accounts office or the financial assistance office – ask for a payment plan or a discount. Hospitals are often willing to work with patients to get the bill paid – you just have to ask!
- In and Out-of-network providers
Before you go in to the hospital for an elective procedure, make sure all of the physicians that will be involved (surgeon, anesthesiologist, pathologist) are on your insurance plan. If they are not, speak with the scheduling nurse in your surgeon’s office to help you find physicians covered by your plan. If you find yourself in the hospital for an emergency, call your insurance company as soon as possible to discuss the options to resolve the issue. If you have no other option but to be “out-of-network,” call the hospital billing office and the billing offices of the specialists to negotiate the final bills.
- Watch out for billing errors
After leaving the hospital, you should ask for a copy of your itemized bill, with all “miscellaneous” items clearly defined. You can also ask the billing office for a key to decipher the codes for each charge. Usually billing errors are due to clerical mistakes, such as transposing a number of a billing code. If you find mistakes on your bill, contact the hospital billing office immediately to have the errors corrected.
- All hospitals are not the same
When choosing a hospital for a procedure or to have a baby, there are certain things you should know about your prospective hospital. You should contact the nurse supervisor at the hospital and find out the nurse-to-patient ratio, since low nurse staffing has been shown to negatively affect patient outcomes. You can also contact the hospital’s quality control or risk-management office to get infection statistics. Also, a hospital may be great for having a baby, but not so great for an open-heart procedure. You should make calls to find the hospital with longest track record, best survival rate and highest volume in the procedure you are having.
- Avoid the ER, if you can
As anyone who has ever been to the emergency rooms knows, emergency rooms are often over-crowded. Many of this country’s emergency departments are overburdened, under funded and not equipped to handle disasters. The reason for this is the number of people now turning to the emergency room for primary care. Some tips to make your emergency room trip more bearable: Avoid the ER between the hours of 3 p.m. and 1 a.m., the busiest shift. The best time to go to the ER is typically between the hours of 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. If you are really ill, be sure to check in with the triage nurse manager, not just the front desk clerk, as the triage manager can expedite care.
- Avoid the hospital in July
The mortality rate rises 4 percent in July and August for the average teaching hospital. The reason behind this rise is simple: July is the month when medical students become interns, interns become residents, and residents become doctors. In other words, a good amount of the staff is new on the job in July. Also, when scheduling a procedure try to set it early in the week and first thing in the morning. Doctors will be at their best and schedules will not be backed up.
- Your medical records may not be private
Even though there are privacy standards in place, in some cases the law allows for your medical information to be released without even asking or notifying you. Hospitals can disclose information regarding your treatment to other doctors and health insurance companies for payment purposes. You are entitled to review your medical records, ask for a copy, and even ask for necessary changes to your records.
Contact our Orlando medical malpractice lawyers to find out how we can help victims of medical negligence. Our attorneys have over a hundred years of combined experience that we use to help people recover from injuries, illnesses or losses caused by other parties. Call 1-800-235-7060 today or submit a form online to schedule a free consultation with our Orlando medical malpractice attorneys.