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Safe staffing requirements may protect nursing home residents

Family members in West Virginia often assume nursing homes will provide safe, reliable care when senior loved ones need it. Unfortunately, there are too many instances where lack of skilled medical care results in or contributes to loss of life. According to one study, approximately 100,000 of the 250,000 deaths attributed to medical mistakes in the United States each year are related to insufficient staffing.

A watchdog group wants to reduce the number of deaths in acute care and nursing facilities related to medical emergencies not detected in time because of staffing shortages. Another elder care organization trains caregivers on how to effectively demand care for loved ones in nursing homes by making their presence known so that call bells will be answered and residents will be properly fed and cared for. A committee co-chair for the group contends that better care is often provided when relatives are around.

Safety tech may be the answer to rise in truck crashes

Truck crashes are on the rise in West Virginia and other states. Florida, in particular, has seen its number jump from 23,515 to 32,513 between 2014 and 2018. The Florida Department of Transportation reports that the leading operator-related factor in these crashes is speeding.

When truckers are negligent, it is usually other drivers who pay the price. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration claims that 72% of truck crash fatalities are passenger vehicle occupants. It is therefore incumbent on all trucking companies to do something to reduce these crash numbers. This is where safety technology comes in.

NHTSA expands probe into deadly airbag controls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which already begun to investigate malfunctioning airbag controls on certain vehicles, is now expanding the probe to include 12.3 million vehicles from automakers like Toyota, Honda, Kia, Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Fiat Chrysler. West Virginia residents who own any 2010 to 2019 model vehicle from one of these brands may want to see if it's on NHTSA's list.

NHTSA upgraded the probe on April 19 from a preliminary evaluation to engineering analysis. It has not yet announced a vehicle recall (though Hyundai, Kia and Fiat Chrysler have already announced recalls). The airbag control units under investigation were produced by ZF-TRW; there are claims that the malfunction prevents the airbags from inflating in a crash and that it may have contributed to eight deaths so far.

3 medical lab problems that may cause you harm

Modern medicine is marvelous. Unlike those in previous centuries, today’s physicians have access to a variety of tools to help them diagnose and treat disease. If you have ever felt ill, there is a good chance your doctor has sent some specimens to a laboratory for testing. 

While medical labs provide an invaluable service, they are not perfect. In fact, according to a recent study, failures during lab testing harmed roughly one out of every 20 patients. If your doctor missed your diagnosis, misdiagnosed your condition or otherwise provided ineffective medical care, lab testing may be to blame. Here are three medical lab problems that may cause you harm: 

Study tracked errors that spread antibiotic-resistant bugs

Healthcare workers sometimes spread harmful bacteria to hospital patients in West Virginia. A study that tracked 125 healthcare workers in an intensive care unit for six months identified errors that could promote contamination by antibiotic resistant bacteria.

In addition to observing doctors and nurses as they performed duties, researchers collected samples from surfaces and people. They tested for the presence of dangerous bacteria on items like blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, call buttons and sinks. Researchers also checked workers' hands, clothing and protective gloves and gowns for contamination. Samples showed that over one-third of workers picked up a drug-resistant bacterium during patient encounters. Places that tested positive for contamination included hands, clothing, jewelry, stethoscopes and mobile phones. About 70 percent of environmental surfaces, like bed rails and blood pressure cuffs, proved to be contaminated.

Misdiagnosis is a common reason for malpractice claims

The results of two recent studies suggest that between a third and a half of all medical malpractice claims in West Virginia and around the country are filed because of a misdiagnosis or a failure to diagnose. The research also reveals that inadequate medical assessments are often the reason doctors fail to identify potentially life-threatening medical conditions.

After reviewing 1,800 claims filed against physicians, the medical malpractice insurer Coverys found that 46 percent were connected to the initial diagnosis. The study also revealed that almost half of the patients who were misdiagnosed died. The Doctors Company, which is another malpractice insurer, also looked into this issue. The company studied 1,215 claims resolved between 2008 and 2017 involving pediatric patients, and they found that a misdiagnosis was involved in 38 percent of them. A 2017 University of Michigan study also revealed widespread diagnostic errors and revealed that misdiagnosed patients are far more likely to die or become disabled.

The misdiagnosis of rare diseases

The World Health Organization reports that rare diseases affect 400 million people throughout the world. A West Virginia resident might be considered to have a rare disease if fewer than 200,000 people in the United States are affected by the same disease. There are no treatment options for most rare diseases, and for others, diagnosis comes so late that treatment may be far less effective.

One reason a disease may go undiagnosed is because it is symptomless. This is the case with gallbladder disease. A rare disease might also be misdiagnosed because of symptoms that are common to a wide variety of illnesses. This may happen with mesothelioma, a type of cancer with early-stage symptoms, such as chest pain and shortness of breath, that may also indicate pneumonia, asthma or just a cold.

State law sets guidelines for construction defects claims

Perhaps you discovered a defect in the master bedroom ceiling of your home, which is currently undergoing renovations.

The work overall is nearly finished, but the contractor has not responded as you wished to your request to fix the defect. What are your next steps according to state law?

NTSB addresses truck safety in 2019-2020 Most Wanted List

The 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements released by the National Transportation Safety Board should be of interest to truck fleet owners in West Virginia. Six of the 10 listed items address safety issues in the commercial trucking industry. For example, distracted driving is a serious issue among truckers, and the NTSB wants to see it eliminated. It encourages states to ban the non-emergency use of handheld electronic devices save for navigators.

In the effort to reduce the use of impaired substances, including synthetic cannabinoids, among truck drivers, the NTSB has solicited a plan from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. It has also asked the FMCSA for access to all its positive drug and alcohol test results.

Study links stress with higher risk for surgical errors

Researchers have found that surgeons are 66 percent more likely to make errors on patients during stressful moments. West Virginia residents who are about to undergo surgery should know that medical errors contribute to between 250,000 and 440,000 deaths every year in the U.S. Many of these occur in operating rooms.

For the study, researchers at Columbia University's Data Science Institute asked a professor of surgery to perform several operations while wearing a Hexoskin Smart Shirt under his scrubs. This shirt measured the electrical impulses that trigger heartbeats, and the variation in times between heartbeats let researchers determine the surgeon's momentary stress levels. At the same time, laparoscopic video recordings were able to document any errors made.

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