DC Metro Area Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Hurt in 2015? How to Make 2016 a Great Year Despite Your Injury or Disability

Posted in Men's Health Issues, Women's Health Issues

A bad car accident, slip and fall injury or acquired disability turned 2015 upside down for you and your family. You’re likely still struggling to come to terms with your new limitations and figure out how to get your finances, career and relationships in order and to restore your sense of balance and peace of mind.

Obviously, you need to give yourself time to grieve your losses. But remember that life can still be full and rich. A study published in Disability and Rehabilitation found after people with spinal cord injuries went through an adjustment period, they enjoyed high levels of independence, social support and life satisfaction. In other words, your accident or injury should not stop you from pursuing amazing things and living life to its fullest.

Here are some guidelines in how to make 2016 a great year.

Get a Support System
Consider connecting with other people who have your disability or limitation. Doing so might make a huge difference in your outlook and emotional health. You’ll receive comfort, encouragement and empathy from those who understand your experience. The professionals who organize these groups can also be a good troubleshooting resource.

Develop a Positive Attitude
Decide to use the abilities you still have to the utmost, and see what you can accomplish. Examples of people with disabilities who achieved wonderful things abound in history as well as present-day life. Franklin Delano Roosevelt led the country through WWII, although he was unable to walk. Other inspiring examples include Stevie Wonder, a successful blind musician, and Marlee Matlin, a deaf actress who won an academy award.

Practice Mindfulness
This article from Alternet summarizes some of the most compelling science on this subject: “Mindfulness training can lead to measurable improvements in the ability to focus and to regulate emotions and behavior even in those who do not suffer from attentional disorders. A 2013 study published in the journal Psychological Science showed that a brief mindfulness exercise before an exam helped students identify distracting thoughts, which lead to improvements in reading comprehension and working memory… Clearly, you don’t have to be an experienced mediator to benefit from mindfulness. As little as a single, short meditation session can have a positive impact on mental functioning.”

If your injury occurred in the workplace, you aren’t alone. See Traumatic Workplace Injuries Plague Americans.

If someone you love is in the hospital due to a person or provider’s negligence or carelessness, our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help. Call or email us now.

Health Care Trends for 2016

Posted in Patient Safety

In the 2010s, the way Americans consume health care has evolved significantly. While some of these system-wide changes clearly stem from the regulations associated with the Affordable Care Act, others have resulted from technological advances. Here are some of the new trends.

Increased Cost and Deductibles
Health care costs are increasing to the extent that one-third of Americans report postponing medical treatment for themselves or for family members. That’s a staggering and worrisome figure. In the face of these higher prices, more consumers are opting for insurance plans with higher deductibles in hopes that they won’t need medical treatment.

Opportunities for Receiving Medical Care at Home
Consumers can receive medical care in their home through two methods: telemedicine and doctors’ house calls. Some insurers are now covering telemedicine services, which involves accessing medical attention from home 24/7 at a rate that is much lower than what a doctor’s office visit would cost. Old-fashioned doctors’ house calls, the other option, are also seeing a revival in certain parts of the country.

Wearable Medical Technology
Some companies are making wearable devices that aid in the prevention and treatment of specific diseases. The devices can detect seizures in patients with epilepsy as well as help fight diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This industry has enormous potential; Soreon Research reports it will be worth $41 billion annually by 2020.

Increased Medical ID Theft
Technology improves health care, but it’s a double-edged sword. It also creates and worsens problems like medical ID theft. This robbery involves stealing health insurance information and Social Security numbers to obtain medical treatment. Victims sometimes have to spend thousands of dollars to rectify their records and restore their credit. To learn more about this issue, see this article for details: Protecting Yourself and Loved Ones from Hazards of Electronic Medical Records (EMR).

Our Washington D.C. personal injury attorneys can suggest a smart, tested strategy for how to seek compensation after an accident. Call or email us for a consultation.

Many Victims of Domestic Violence Have Undiagnosed Traumatic Brain Injury

Posted in Women's Health Issues

The New Yorker reports that medical professionals often fail to diagnose traumatic brain injury (TBI) in victims of domestic abuse. Per this news analysis, when emergency room personnel examine women following an attack, they usually don’t order CT scans or MRIs. A diagnosis of TBI frequently indicates that the victims of abuse are likely to become victims of homicide later. Without the TBI diagnosis, in other words, abuse victims go home from the hospital unprotected, unaware, and perhaps in imminent danger.

Strangulation Attempts Cause TBI
Approximately half of women victims of domestic abuse have suffered strangulation attempts. Such incidents can cause mild to moderate brain injuries from the cutting off of the oxygen supply. The lack of diagnoses revolves around the fact that most injuries from strangulation are internal rather than external. Only a small percentage show wounds visible enough to photograph, and law enforcement often characterizes the injuries in reports as minor abrasions to the neck. In addition, since victims tend to have poor recall of strangulation, authorities often downplay the harm, which results in prosecution of the abusers on less serious charges.

People Who Work With Abuse Victims Need Training Regarding Strangulation Signs
Since strangulations dramatically increase the risk of homicide, anyone working with domestic abuse victims, including police officers, attorneys and shelter workers, should receive training in how to recognize it and the TBI it causes. In addition to acquiring evidence from brain scans, personnel should watch for symptoms such as memory problems, hearing loss, dizziness, headaches and anxiety. The training should also involve how to conduct an investigation and how to keep a victim safe. Increased prosecution of perpetrators of strangulation will lead to a decreased number of homicides among domestic abuse victims. The National Center for Violence Against Women provides information in how to deal with strangulation cases.

Doctors are critically important in the system of identifying domestic abuse victims. See Study Highlights the Role of Physicians in Diagnosing Domestic Violence for more information.

Concussions can be confusing and scary, particularly if there’s a debate over who’s liable. Contact our D.C. brain injury attorneys for a free consultation about your options.

January Is National Blood Donor Month

Posted in Community Service, Men's Health Issues, Women's Health Issues

Every year, in late December, many of us sit down and make heartfelt resolutions to perform acts of kindness or do something to help humanity in the year ahead. Quantifying that urge – and putting intention into action – can be surprisingly challenging, though. Donating blood offers a wonderful way to fulfill this yearning to help, and it can make a huge difference for those in need. Studies show that blood donors obtain significant and enduring satisfaction from this act of giving. January is National Blood Donor Month, so now is a great time to start on this path!

Eligibility Requirements
Most people qualify as blood donors. According to the American Red Cross, the requirements include good health, a weight of at least 110 pounds, and an age of at least 17 years.

Qualifications for donating double red cells are somewhat more stringent. In addition to the above requirements, males must have a minimum height of 5’1” and minimum weight of 130 pounds, while females must have a minimum height of 5’5” and minimum weight of 150 pounds.

How to Prepare for Blood Donation
If you’ve never done it before, the process of blood donation is very easy and intuitive. Bring your ID and a list of your medications, and wear comfortable clothing. Drink lots of water on the day you donate, and eat foods plentiful in iron, such as raisins and spinach, especially in the weeks prior to your donation. Some people also find it pleasant to donate blood with a friend.

Recipients of Blood
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute reports that 5 million Americans need blood transfusions each year. High users of blood products include cancer patients, trauma victims and surgery patients. People with bleeding disorders or severe infections need them as well.

Bloodstream infections are responsible for 30,000 hospital deaths each year. To learn how to prevent them, see 5 simple steps hospitals could, but often do not, use to prevent bloodstream infections.

If you need smart insight into a potential case, please get in touch with our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys for a consultation.

The Huge and Underappreciated Problem of Hospital Errors

Posted in Medical Malpractice, Patient Safety

Most people are aware that medical errors occur during hospitalizations and that they result in illness, injury and death; however, few know the full extent of the problem. Doctors and healthcare consumers alike tend to assume such mistakes are relatively rare. In a startling new book, Killer Care: How Medical Error Became America’s Third Largest Cause of Death, And What Can Be Done About It, the author, James B Lieber, reveals healthcare errors are alarmingly frequent. Below, we excerpted and contextualized key themes from this important book.

In the latter decades of the 20th century, researchers concerned with reports of malpractice sought to ascertain the prevalence of the problem of hospital errors. A 1978 study published in the Western Medical Journal found “a potentially compensable event” occurred in one of every 20 admissions to the 23 California hospitals analyzed. In the 1980s, the Harvard Medical Practice Study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found equally alarming results in the state of New York. Both studies lacked the statistical extrapolation to gauge the problem nationally; therefore, doctors didn’t view medical errors as a huge public health crisis at the time.

Dr. Lucian Leape, one of the leaders of the Harvard study, became frustrated with the lack of attention it generated and continued to work for reforms. In 1997, he testified before the House of Representatives that when people enter a hospital, they have a one in 200 chance of dying from an accident.

The year 1997 brought some progress, when a congressional committee produced a report that summarized the studies pertaining to medical errors. This led to reforms and the standardization of medical training. Yet despite these improvements, subsequent research shows the problem persists. To see a more recent study, read CMS Reports on Prevalence of Medical Errors, which indicates how medical errors continue to be a threat to patient safety in America.

If someone you love is in the hospital due to a person or provider’s negligence or carelessness, our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help. Call or email us now.

Medical Errors on the Decline Since Obamacare Rollout

Posted in Medical Malpractice, Patient Safety

According to a new hospital report, deadly medical errors have declined in hospitals, a benefit that may have saved 87,000 lives since 2010. Identifying the reasons for the improvement presents a challenge, but many analysts believe initiatives within the Affordable Care Act have played an important role. If these experts are correct, it means Obamacare has prevented deaths due to human error.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which issued the report, has tracked medical errors since 2010. It found that 121 of 1,000 patients who experienced hospital stays in 2014 suffered hospital-acquired conditions (HAC) that resulted from error. While this rate equals that of the previous year, it shows a 17 percent improvement over the HAC rate of 145 in 2010. Based on research, the report translates the decline in HAC to the saving of 87,000 lives.

Doctors are aware that many people die every year due to preventable mistakes. However, getting hospitals to adopt practices that reduce medical errors has been difficult partly because existing financial incentives failed to reward physicians and hospital staff for improving quality. Since patients who get sick due to an error require longer hospitalizations that result in more revenue, the financial incentives perversely can reward poor care.

The Affordable Care Act sought to reverse this system that puts patients at risk. Due to penalties the law created, Medicare pays less to hospitals with higher rates of readmissions, HAC and injuries. In addition, the government awards extra funds to medical institutions that agree to implement quality-enhancing measures. Experts don’t know the full impact of these reforms yet, but the steep decline suggests they have led to better patient care.

To learn how doctors feel about medical errors, see Doctors Stress Over Medical Errors (And So Does Everyone Else).

If someone you love suffered an injury or illness due to someone else’s inaction or wrongdoing, our Washington D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help you seek compensation effectively.

December Is AIDS Awareness Month

Posted in Men's Health Issues, Patient Safety, Women's Health Issues

The AIDS Awareness Month of December provides an opportunity for doctors, patients and public health experts to discuss the implications of an illness that afflicts millions around the globe. Frustratingly, research has yet to find a definitive cure for HIV; and the infection poses a daunting challenge to its victims along with the doctors who endeavor to treat it. However, a therapy that launched in 1996 has markedly improved the quality of life for AIDS patients. The discussion below gives a snapshot of the current prevalence and treatment of HIV.

AIDS.gov reports that 1.2 million Americans have HIV, but 12.8 percent are unaware of it. While the number of people diagnosed with the illness has risen over the past ten years, the yearly number of new cases remains approximately the same. Since many may be undiagnosed, those who suspect they are infected should ask their doctor to test them.

When the AIDS epidemic started in the 1980s, the life expectancy of those diagnosed was a few years at the most. The advent of antiretroviral therapy (ART) has given AIDS patients more years of life because of the following four benefits:

• Prevents the virus from growing inside the body
• Increases longevity of immune cells
• Reduces the likelihood of transmitting the virus to others
• Decreases the risk of contracting an illness unrelated to HIV

Per the World Health Organization (WHO):

“Expansion of antiretroviral therapy (ART) has resulted in a stark reduction of AIDS-related deaths. At the same time, increasingly effective prevention efforts have reduced numbers of new HIV infections. Since the epidemic’s peak in 2004, the number of – deaths has fallen by 42% with some 7.8 million lives being saved over the last 15 years, according to a new WHO report. The number of new infections has fallen by 35% since the turn of the century.

Over the last 15 years, scale-up of ART has been most dramatic in the WHO African Region where now more than 11 million people are receiving HIV treatment, up from 11 000 at the turn of the century. People living with HIV in Africa are now more likely to receive treatment than people living in most other parts of the world. Globally, in June 2015 close to 16 million people out of a total of 37 million people living with HIV were taking ART.”

Although ART doesn’t cure HIV, it suppresses the symptoms. Despite its advantages, the therapy has side effects as well as a high cost. A solution of using ART periodically gives the patient’s body a break and cuts the expense.

New medical therapies can be a double-edged sword. Consider the frustrating case of compounding pharmacies: Why Are Compounding Pharmacies So Dangerous?

Our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help you and your family understand your potential options to seek compensation. Call us today for a free consultation.

Biggest Development In Diabetes Treatment in 2015?

Posted in Men's Health Issues, Women's Health Issues

Given that November is National Diabetes Month, it’s important to discuss critical research in the field. A study published in the prominent journal Nutrition in early 2015 suggests a breakthrough approach to treating and managing diabetes.
The article, titled “Dietary carbohydrate restriction as the first approach in diabetes management: Critical review and evidence base,” compared several diets proposed to help manage diabetes. Researchers found that low-carbohydrate diets offered several advantages over low-GI diets or high cereal diets. By tracking several measures of health in the patients they studied, including A1c levels, triglycerides, and HDL cholesterol levels, researchers spotted a marked improvement in patients who followed the low-carbohydrate diet over patients who stuck with a low-glycemic index (GI) or high cereal diet.
In addition, the researchers found that patients could benefit from the low-carbohydrate diet even if they did not lose weight – although patients appeared more likely to lose weight on the low-carbohydrate diet than on other diets. When combined with the positive effects in controlling high blood sugar and the fact that the diet does not impose the kind of troublesome or potentially serious side effects found in medications, the researchers proposed a clear answer to the question “Which diet is best for controlling my diabetes?”

“Here we present 12 points of evidence supporting the use of low-carbohydrate diets as the first approach to treating type 2 diabetes and the as the most effective adjunct to pharmacology in type 1,” the authors stated in the paper’s abstract. “The 12 points are sufficiently compelling that we feel that the burden of proof rests with those who are opposed.”

Obviously, you should discuss your options with your doctor before going on any diet or changing up your eating or exercising routines, but this article might provide a useful reference for productive research and patient awareness.

To learn more about how and why to be a strong self-advocate in the medical system, see New Medical Report: Wrong or Late Diagnosis Experienced by Most Americans.

Our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help you and your family understand your potential options to seek compensation. Call us today for a free consultation.

Are Hospital Errors Really Becoming Less Common?

Posted in Medical Malpractice

Given the unbearable costs hospital errors exact on our nation’s sick and injured population every year, it’s sometimes hard to muster optimism. However, a December 2014 report published by the Department of Health and Human Services suggests that medical workers and hospital safety experts may finally be winning the battle – or at least turning the tide.

  • The report said that “hospital acquired conditions” (e.g. staph infections caught in a hospital ER) declined over a three year period by 17 percent.
  • Medical errors, meanwhile, declined in practically every category.
  • IV blood infections, for instance, declined by almost 50 percent.
  • Bedsore ulcers — a plague that visits bedridden patients who are not moved frequently enough — declined by 20 percent.
  • Pharmaceutical errors also declined by nearly 20 percent.

The timeframe of the report covers 2010 to 2013.

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine found that such errors killed approximately 98,000 people a year in the United States. Later analysis determined that number could be much higher.

Some analysts credit the decrease in errors to the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”), which incentivizes hospitals through the “Partnership for Patients” program. This policy has been associated with a reduction in re-admissions (by 18 percent as of early 2014). A pilot program run at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City found that a similar incentive system led to a drastic cut in re-admissions by over 40 percent.

However, an analysis published in 2012 in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that government incentives do not necessarily correlate with decline in certain hospital infections.

Hopefully, researchers will analyze this progress more carefully and help us uncover how to make hospitals safer and less error-prone.

Our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys can help you and your family understand your potential case options. Call us today for a free consultation.

 

Compound Pharmaceuticals: A Surprising Effect on Military Budget?

Posted in Medications, Patient Safety

Over the past several years, this blog has covered the under-reported but nevertheless widespread dangers associated with compound pharmacies.

A new published analysis suggests that compound pharmaceuticals may have cost the military’s Tricare program massively, creating a multi-billion dollar budget hole.

Compound pharmacies in theory sound excellent and effective. They merge multiple medicines to develop drugs that might not be available easily in commercial form. Unfortunately, the industry, due perhaps to lack of regulation, has been at the center of a serious investigation regarding improper marketing and pricing schemes.

Several years ago, private healthcare companies worked hard to eliminate or reduce this aggressive marketing, but military healthcare affiliates have just recently discovered that they have their own compound pharmacy problem. According to analysis, in 2010, the military spent $6.6 billion on pharmacy costs; only $23 million of that went to compound drugs. By 2015, the compound drug costs for Tricare (a military healthcare program) blossomed explosively to $1.7 billion. That constitutes a nearly thousand-fold increase in cost in just five years!

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Resource Management, Jon Rychalski said “it’s really unheard of to see this kind of a spike, and it threatens our program.” Noting that the average Tricare cost for compound drugs bumped from $192 to an astonishing $2,595, Rychalski observed that “unscrupulous people [are] out there taking advantage of this, heavily marketing in many different ways.”

Four defense committees in Congress are now well aware of these escalating drug costs — and obviously motivated to bring costs down to more reasonable levels — but policymakers still don’t know how, exactly, to get the Tricare budget under control.

Contact our D.C. medical malpractice attorneys for a free consultation about your options.

Explore more hidden dangers about compound drugs in this eye-opening article: 6 Dangers of Pharmacy Compounding: What Patients Need to Know.