When parents take their child to a New Mexico hospital, they expect to at least be seen by a doctor. However, according to U.S. News, one couple reportedly lost their 15-year-old son to an internal infection because he was not adequately screened. As a result of the mistake made that evening, their lawsuit states, they were told it would take eight hours before a doctor could come and examine the boy. He died the next day.

According to The Joint Commission, Division of Health Care Improvement, this type of error is often due to a faulty system rather than a single person’s mistake. Whether the negligence is due to an individual’s action or a facility’s failure, though, the result is more often fatal than not. Over a five-year period, one study revealed 522 sentinel events that were caused from treatment delays; 415 were fatal. Of those who did not die, 77 lost some level of function permanently, and 24 had to undergo additional treatment or extended hospitalization. 

One of the top causes of the 522 incidents was inadequate assessments. However, there are many issues that may lead to these faulty evaluation results:

  • Understaffing
  • Poor communication
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Poor scheduling systems

Although the solution is not simple, there are many ways that hospitals and other health care facilities can improve their processes and procedures to decrease patient risk. For example, technology can mitigate many communication errors through electronic health records that include diagnostic checklists, enhanced scheduling and call-back systems, and improved care transitions.

Standardizing assessments and methods of communication can also lower the chances that a patient’s symptoms will go unnoticed or miscommunicated between health care providers and other medical personnel. Perhaps one of the most important steps a hospital can take is to ensure that staffing levels are always adequate to meet the needs of patients.