Hospital negligence comes in various shapes and sizes. A clear case of medical negligence occurs when a doctor orders a test but the test is never performed or the results go unread, and the patient dies or is injured as a result of the missed test result. The Archives of Internal Medicine recently published an article showing that physicians never checked about half of the test results ordered on the day of the patient’s hospital discharge. While this study pertains to an Australian hospital, the problem is also “huge” in the U.S., according to an article in U.S. News HealthDay.
The Journal of the American College of Cardiology also reports that a majority of U.S. hospitals have not implemented strategies recommended to improve outcomes after patient discharge, including follow up on pending test results. Typically, the physician who orders a test “owns it,” meaning that he/she is responsible for checking to be sure it is done and that the results are read. The doctor’s failure to do so may form the basis of a medical malpractice claim. However, in some situations, fault may lie with the hospital. For example, if a nurse fails to timely implement a doctor’s order for a test, the hospital may be held liable under Ohio law for the nurse’s negligence. Nursing negligence is hospital negligence.
These statistics are frightening, especially when considering that about 10% of all hospital tests are ordered at discharge. When the patient is sent home or back to a nursing home, the patient and his/her family assumes that all test results have been reviewed and important abnormalities discussed. When an abnormal test result is ignored, it can create a critical delay in diagnosis.