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Why medical errors are the USA's third leading cause of death

The media, physicians, researchers and even the government spend a great deal of energy inspiring the American public to be proactive about their health. Organizations and individuals alike stress the importance of physical exercise, a healthy diet and various positive lifestyle choices in order to help American adults avoid the two leading causes of death in the U.S.: cancer and heart disease.

However, shockingly little is said to prepare Americans to avoid the third leading cause of death in the U.S., which is death resulting from medical errors. Perhaps the media and other prominent voices are quiet on this subject because they mistakenly believe that little can be done to prevent medical errors. But thankfully, much can be done to prevent a great many of these deadly mistakes.

What is causing deadly medical errors?

The scourge of medical errors plaguing the nation has complex roots. At its most basic, the problem persists because medical providers are human. All humans error. But the prevalence of deadly and primarily preventable errors is too widespread to be tied "simply" to the inevitability of human error.

One major challenge affecting the medical industry is that it is, in fact, an industry. Like other industry workers, medical professionals are increasingly compelled to turn a profit, to see more patients, to prescribe more drugs, order more tests, etc. Every time a procedure is performed or an invasive test is ordered, the potential for a mistake exists. When physicians are pressured into taking less time with patients and ordering tests and procedures that may not be necessary, more mistakes inevitably occur.

Another major challenge involves specialization and non-connected technologies. Few practitioners and few practices are concerned with viewing patients as whole beings. When providers and technologies fail to properly "talk" to one another, dangerous interactions can occur, information can get glossed over and patients can pay the ultimate price as a result.

Moving forward proactively

It is important to understand that physicians and other medical providers can be held accountable for their mistakes. In fact, holding negligent providers accountable can help to inspire change. Not only does accountability help to ensure that specific healthcare providers avoid similar mistakes in the future, it also helps to inspire medical practices and organizations to invest time and resources into widespread reform. That is one major reason why injured patients and the loved ones of patients who have died as a result of medical errors frequently work with personal injury attorneys to hold negligent providers accountable.

It is also important to understand that patients have the power to help prevent certain kinds of errors. By researching one's medical providers, taking an active role in one's treatment, speaking up when something feels wrong and otherwise investing in the healthcare process, patients can help to prevent errors without truly targeted effort. Although the prevalence of fatal medical errors is daunting, every American can help to ensure that fewer errors occur simply by being more involved in the healthcare process itself.

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