As the New Year begins, many of us have questions about our medical health. Some of us are trying to understand the fine print on new health insurance policies while others prepare for medical appointments or surgical procedures.
A doctor’s office should be a safe place. But as medical malpractice lawyers here in Boston, we know the reality is that medical mistakes can happen at any stage during medical care, from the doctor’s office to the pharmacy to surgery. Mistakes are not rare either.
Medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the U.S., according to a 2016 study out of John Hopkins University. Researchers analyzed 8 years of medical death rates, concluding more than 250,000 deaths each year now arise out of medical mistakes.
This is an unbelievable number. For comparison, we looked at figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC reported heart disease, cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease were the top causes of death in 2016. According to the John Hopkins’ study, about 95,000 more people are now dying from medical errors than chronic lower respiratory disease each year.
At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our attorneys are leaders in the field of medical malpractice law in Massachusetts. We offer these safety tips for patients in 2018:
- Check on your doctor and specialists. You can learn about your doctor and specialists by using the Physician Search service, offered by the Massachusetts Board of Registration. This service will provide you with information about the doctor’s education, experience, insurance plans accepted and locations where they practice. More important, it will offer you information about criminal convictions, discipline actions and medical malpractice payments the physician has made and reported to the state. Note that some of this data is limited to the past 10 years. Other sources of information are the doctor’s website and online reviews.
- Check your hospital. Before you book a surgery is a good time to check online. Each year, the federal government reports on hospitals with a high rate of patient injuries. Nine Massachusetts hospitals made the 2018 list and will now lose 1 percent in Medicare payments for a year. These hospitals include Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston; Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton; MetroWest Medical Center, Framingham and Lawrence General Hospital, Lawrence. In Central and Western Massachusetts: Baystate Franklin Medical Center, Greenfield; Clinton Hospital Association, Clinton; Mercy Medical Center, Springfield; Nashoba Valley Medical Center, Ayer and Noble Hospital, Westfield.
- Bring a patient advocate. Don’t go alone. It is your right to bring a patient advocate with you to a medical appointment. This is one of many protections in the Massachusetts Patients Bill of Rights, G.L. c. 111, § 70E. Bring a spouse, a friend or someone you trust to help you take notes on test results and your doctor’s instructions on follow up care. Your patient advocate is also there to observe and ask questions and speak up for you if they see something that doesn’t look right.
- Carry your health insurance card with you. If you recently received a new card, make sure you are carrying it. Also carry your children’s cards and make sure to periodically review emergency contact forms for you, your spouse, your children and other family members, including elderly relatives. If something happens, you want to know as soon as possible so you can be on site as your love one receives medical care.
- Medical records. Remember you have a right to your medical records. Look for a doctor who will provide you with online access to your medical records. Before you schedule a surgery, search online for the hospital’s medical record office. Learn what you will need to do to request your medical records after your procedure.
We hope our tips help you and your family enjoy a healthy 2018. However, if you are injured as a result of medical care, it is critical to contact an experienced Boston medical malpractice lawyer as soon as possible. Do not sign any paperwork offered by a hospital or medical office without learning your rights and understanding what treatment you will require going forward.
About Attorney Marc L. Breakstone
Attorney Marc L. Breakstone has over 30 years experience representing plaintiffs injured by medical malpractice in Massachusetts. Attorney Breakstone has been consistently recognized for his work, including on the Top 100 New England Super Lawyers list and Top 100 Massachusetts Super Lawyers list, as well as by U.S. News – Best Lawyers. Read more about Attorney Breakstone.