They bring you in for surgery. The doctor asks you for your name. You give him your first name and he nods, smiles, and begins getting ready for the surgery.
Then it dawns on you: What if he has another patient with the same name? Could there be a mix-up? What if he carries out the wrong procedure? What if he gives you a medication that you’re allergic to?
Obviously, medical mistakes like this can have a drastic impact on a person’s health. For instance, imagine that you came in for a knee operation while another patient with the same name came in for an amputation. If you wake up and find out that they mistakenly did the amputation instead of the operation, your life will never be the same.
How often does this happen? It’s a serious concern. “This happens every day in any healthcare organization of any size,” said one expert when asked about patient identification mix-ups, calling the problem “ubiquitous.” That expert also noted that while most members of the public don”t know how common this is, hospital staff members do know.
Naturally, they do catch some errors in time. A doctor double-checks the records and finds out he or she has the wrong patient. A receptionist calls a patient in and then quickly changes it before any procedure has been carried out. There are many ways that these mistakes get fixed.
Even so, misidentification of patients can occur, even with all of the safeguards that are in place, and some have serious consequences. Patients need to know what rights they have to compensation for these mistakes.