A serious illness can send even a healthy adult to the emergency room.
Each year, United States hospitals take in 140,000 to 710,000 patients for flu-related illnesses and complications alone.
During the 2015 to 2016 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimates that over 310,000 people were hospitalized for a flu-related illness or complication.
When you feel severely ill, you turn to your local hospital for treatment. Sometimes, you must go to the emergency room because it is after hours for your physician. Other times, you might suffer serious complications.
Regardless of what brings you into the hospital, you should leave feeling better. Not worse.
Sadly, patients can enter the hospital and receive inadequate treatment, misdiagnosis, or leave with an illness that they did not have upon arrival.
In this post, we will discuss what happens when you leave the hospital sicker than you were when you arrived, such as with an infection or other illness.
One question to ask yourself is whether you were ill upon arrival. Perhaps you suffer from flu-like symptoms. Therefore, you go to the hospital for treatment. However, when you leave, you develop pneumonia from a secondary infection. Would the hospital be at-fault for the secondary infection or is it just the course of your flu?
What if you arrived at the hospital completely fine, but left with a staph infection or other severe infection? Who would be responsible then?
These are questions you must assess and answer when determining if you have a claim against your local hospital.
We will discuss these two scenarios in-depth: the hospital-acquired infection and leaving the hospital without proper treatment for an illness you already have.
Typically, in this case, you either receive inadequate treatment or a misdiagnosis of the proper illness.
A diagnosis by a physician, whether in a clinic or hospital, is done by reviewing your health history, examining your symptoms, and conducting a physical examination. Sometimes cultures are taken, blood work is completed, and other diagnostic tests performed (i.e. x-rays). Then, the physician comes to a diagnosis.
While diagnostic medicine is not always exact, there are protocols in place to prevent misdiagnoses instances. Often, a misdiagnosis occurs because a physician fails to follow such protocol or skips steps because they have a burdened patient load and need to move through each patient quickly.
Also, if there is an outbreak in the area for a particular illness (such as the flu), you might be misdiagnosed with that condition that is widespread, even if you do not have it.
Misdiagnosing the flu, for example, is a very common issue. The flu mimics other diseases, including strep throat, upper respiratory infections, gastrointestinal infections, and pneumonia.
A misdiagnosis is different from a delayed diagnosis. If your illness eventually is diagnosed and treated correctly, but you suffer injury, you might have a delayed diagnosis. A misdiagnosis is dangerous because it can lead to severe health complications when a patient is not treated for the illness they have.
Using the flu example, you may be misdiagnosed with the common cold instead of the flu. While the flu typically exhibits fewer mild symptoms, it shares similarities to the common cold. Therefore, a rushed physician might write off your symptoms as the cold; instead, of what you have (the flu).
Some illnesses are more commonly misdiagnosed than others. If you do not receive the proper diagnosis for these conditions, you could suffer serious complications. In fact, some of these conditions are life-threatening and require immediate treatment.
Some illnesses commonly misdiagnosed include:
When you arrive at a hospital and leave feeling sicker than you did when you came, the misdiagnosis might not be apparent immediately. You might visit your family physician only to realize that the wrong illness was diagnosed at the emergency room; hence, why you felt worse leaving the hospital.
Not all misdiagnoses are malpractice, however. If the physician at the hospital conducted a proper examination and ran all diagnostic tests that another professional in a similar situation would have done, then no negligence occurred.
Instead, your attorney will review your medical records and look for a deviation from the standard or expected level of care. If a difference occurs, then you might have a malpractice claim.
However, who do you hold accountable?
In this instance, one or more parties may be held responsible for your illness worsening into a life-threatening or more serious condition, including:
Sometimes you enter the hospital without a fever or without any illness, but a few days later you start exhibiting symptoms of something serious, such as an infection.
According to the recent research by the CDC, one out of every 20 patients in a hospital will develop a hospital-acquired infection (HAI).
Hospital infections are especially devastating, and when the infection occurs because of unsanitary hospital conditions or the actions of a hospital staff member, the hospital and that physician might be liable through a medical malpractice lawsuit.
A hospital acquired infection (HAI), is an infection that occurs while receiving routine or regular healthcare in a hospital or treatment facility. These infections occur in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and outpatient surgical centers.
While the number of illnesses and infections from a hospital vary, there are some more common than others, including:
Not all diseases or infections obtained at a hospital or immediately after discharge are due to negligence. Hospitals are full of germs, just like public spaces. However, when a person is ill or undergoing a surgical procedure, they are at higher risk for contracting one of those illnesses or infections.
Hospitals are aware of the risk, which is why they have protocols in place to protect their patients. They use safeguards to prevent contamination of equipment or from spreading illnesses from one patient to the other.
Sadly, hospitals cut corners and skip protocols to save money or time. In the end, the patient is the one that suffers, because they contract a life-threatening illness. Some hospitals are more relaxed on policies, such as how often to sanitize in between patients.
When the hospital takes steps that no longer prevent an infection or illness, they are negligent. Therefore, you can hold them accountable through a malpractice lawsuit.
An HAI might be found while you are in the hospital; therefore, staff will treat it aggressively. However, a delayed diagnosis or treatment might result in sepsis, which is a life-threatening infection spread by the blood and affects your organs. Eventually, it leads to septic shock, which can be fatal.
If your diagnosis of the HAI is delayed or treatment is not administered, the hospital and their staff could be liable for your injuries or the death of a loved one.
Most HAIs, however, are diagnosed after you leave the hospital. Unfortunately, once you exit the hospital, it becomes more difficult proving that your infection was from the hospital. Instead, your medical records must be assessed to decide if the infection resulted from care at the hospital or the infection came from another source in your home.
Bottom line, if you suffer an infection from a hospital or your illness is misdiagnosed, and you experience a serious complication, you must consult an attorney.