In the early years of my legal career, I represented women who had suffered catastrophic injuries resulting from medical errors such as delays in diagnosis of breast cancer and incorrectly-prescribed medications. I had the privilege of counseling women who were fighting for their lives and supporting their families, while working to positively impact the delivery of healthcare to meet the highest standards of quality deserved by all patients. The stories told by these women always seemed to share a common thread, namely, they’d felt ignored, dismissed or otherwise forgotten. It was as if their healthcare issues had taken a backseat or just didn’t matter. These stories inspired me to become more involved in industries that are working to change healthcare delivery. I’ve been an advocate for womens’ health for decades lecturing on the use of the personal health record (PHR) to empower the patient, and worked on various national task forces developing PHRs and electronic health records. Womens’ issues have always been important to me, and as my career developed and life changed, I found myself transitioning into consulting with men and women struggling with issues relating to life before, during and after divorce. I’ve published books and have written articles on topics addressing these issues including mediation versus litigation; parenting, co-parenting and step parenting; blended families; spousal support/alimony and child support; and those issues that arise in our everyday lives. I’ve been recognized by my colleagues as an expert in the area of cohabitation and alimony, and have counseled countless individuals and couples through this traumatic transition in their lives. My life as an attorney, wife and stepmom has been a journey, and is now coming full-circle right back to where I was years ago as an advocate for womens’ health law.
While the availability of consumer-focused tools to manage your personal health and the implementation of the electronic health record to assist your provider has resulted in improvement in the overall quality of healthcare delivery, there is still much work to be done. Medication errors such as prescribing the wrong medication or over-prescribing the right medication continues to cause serious injury to patients every day. Just as the work of non-profit organizations to raise awareness about a particular disease brings that issue to the forefront, so must we talk about these issues so that we can also effect change. Patient awareness and self-advocacy is a critical element to assuring your safety and good health.
STAT: Preventable medical errors persist as the No. 3 killer in the U.S. – third only to heart disease and cancer – claiming the lives of an estimated 400,000 people each year.
Medical errors come in many different forms such as prescription of the wrong medication because the abbreviations were too similar or administering the wrong dose of a medication because “0.01” was mis-typed or written as “0.10.” Medical errors happen when medications sound or look so similar that the person dispensing the drug gets it wrong. Medical errors happen when a patient is already taking a drug that is contraindicated when taken along with a new drug. Medical errors happen. But there are steps we can take to mitigate the frequency with which they occur, and paths we can follow to seek justice when they do.
I hope you will follow me on this journey as I explore the concerning health issues affecting families today from medication errors harming our children to nursing home negligence affecting our elderly parents. I will be reporting weekly on stories and events occurring in our country, and providing helpful tips about how you can be your own best advocate. I look forward to your comments and shared experiences!