3 Problems Patients have when hospitals make mistakes

Almost any patient who is hurt in a hospital because they didn't get the right medical care and treatment for their condition will have obstacles to overcome in proving their case, most set up by the hospital to protect it from responsibility for medical malpractice or at least make it harder on legitimate patients to prove it.

First, it's hard to get your medical records.  You usually have to wait until they are "signed" or the doctors review their notes, which can take months.  Of course, you'll have to sign an authorization for their release and pay copying charges, which can be pretty steep as well.

Second, once you get the records, how do you know they are complete?  Are all the consulting reports, lab values, medication administration records, nursing notes, progress notes, radiology reports, etc. in your copy?  It is rare that we get a complete copy of the medical chart the first time we request it.  We have to dig through it with experts and consultants to see what is probably missing.  Many times, a few of the records have been "lost".  How will you know?

Third, even if the hospital itself reviews the matter and concludes you did not receive the right medical care and were harmed as a result, you'll probably never get the results of that review.  In D.C. medical malpractice cases, that is usually privileged and won't be disclosed to the patient.

So sometimes you have to prove what they already know.  It's not an easy process.

But if you have a life changing injury or condition, don't give up.  Get all of the information and help you can.  Holding a hospital accountable for its actions that harm patients could help not just you and your family but the entire community - by forcing the hospital to follow established patient safety rules for every patient.

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