Could electronic medical records be killing patients?

When you visit your doctor’s office or you end up in the emergency room, do you want the doctor looking at you or a computer screen?

Unfortunately, the question is irrelevant for most patients because the computer screen won out when the majority of hospitals and offices moved to electronic health records. They’re supposed to make things easier for doctors and nurses, and the care delivered to patients more consistent overall.

However, those systems can be so convoluted and unwieldy that the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that they may pose a “risk for patients.” There’s no standard design system among them. It can take some systems 62 clicks just for a doctor to order a dose of Tylenol for a patient. Medical professionals working a hospital in the emergency room can make 4,000 clicks in one shift alone.

Many believe that the government’s rush to modernize the entire medical record system is largely to blame. It’s created a costly and complicated mess. Mistakes in electronic records are far too common. There have been instances where people have been misdiagnosed or suffered delayed cancer diagnoses because test records ended up in the wrong file. Overdoses have occurred because medications have been entered incorrectly. According to a recent report, electronic health records play a role in one-third of all medication mistakes.

In addition, there’s another problem: The electronic records take some of the autonomy away from the doctors. They’re required to follow certain prompts and check certain boxes. That could cause doctors to have a false sense of security if a patient is showing symptoms that don’t check the “right” boxes.

If a problem with a medical health record’s defective design led to your injury or the death of a loved one, it’s time to seek more information about all of your legal options.

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Supreme Court extends rules on asbestos warnings

What happens when a company makes a product that is, in itself, asbestos-free — but requires a part made from asbestos in order to function?

Well, in the past, the people using those products mostly had no idea that they were in danger from the asbestos fibers coming from the added parts. Those people were, largely, in the Navy.

At least two of those people, now veterans of the Navy, went on to develop cancer that has been related to their exposure to asbestos from the parts added to the machines they were required to use. They and their spouses sued the manufacturers of the equipment, claiming that the manufacturers were negligent for not warning the veterans that the fully-functioning and integrated product (in other words, the actual equipment as it was designed to operate) contained asbestos. That left them unaware of the danger they were in from the asbestos exposure and unable to take appropriate precautions for their own safety.

The manufacturers, naturally, claimed that they didn’t have a responsibility to issue a warning. They relied on a “bare-metal defense,” which basically said that even though they designed a product that was meant to work with another product made from asbestos, their own product was asbestos-free. They didn’t feel that they should be liable to issue a warning about the potential harm caused by the third-party parts used with their machinery.

The Supreme Court disagreed. The Court held that “a product manufacturer has a duty to warn when its product requires incorporation of a part the manufacturer knows or has reason to know that the integrated product is likely to be dangerous for its intended uses,” particularly when there’s no real reason to think that the intended users of that product will somehow be aware of their danger.

This is an important victory for people who have suffered asbestos exposure from third-party parts that were always intended to be part of an integrated product because it opens up the potential of a broader lawsuit against more manufacturers. The money gained from these kinds of lawsuits can help compensate victims and provide for their families. For more information, contact an experienced Tennessee attorney.

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Retailer recalls makeup after testing finds asbestos

Many people think that asbestos is only found in older building materials like drywall and insulation. However, it’s been identified in everything from crayons to baby powder. It’s also been found in some makeup products — at least according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This month, the FDA issued a consumer warning regarding specific makeup products sold by Claire’s stores. The warning to consumers not to purchase the products follows test results that the agency says indicated the presence of asbestos fibers.

The FDA ordered the testing after a study by a non-profit consumer watchdog group two years ago found asbestos in makeup sold by Claire’s. Like baby powder, makeup products commonly contain talc, which can contain traces of asbestos.

The FDA doesn’t have the authority to order the retailer, which is popular with teenage girls, to recall the products in question. However, Claire’s — despite the fact that it has publicly disputed that the fibers in question were asbestos — issued its own voluntary recall. It’s no longer selling them and has cautioned consumers who have them at home not to use them. The retailer says it will issue refunds for any of the products returned by customers.

In a statement, Claire’s said, “We initiated this voluntary recall after testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration indicated the possible presence of asbestos fibers in product samples from one lot of each product.” The three products in question are eye shadows, compact powder and a “contour palette,” all sold under the retailer’s name. Claire’s also said it was taking all of its talc-based products off the shelves. No Claire’s products have been blamed for any illnesses or injuries.

The FDA doesn’t have a mandate to review or approve cosmetic products. However, it recently said that it intends to seek feedback from companies that make and sell these products regarding what steps they’re taking to keep asbestos out of them.

The small amounts of asbestos that could be present in some talc-based makeups likely aren’t significant enough to cause harm. However, it’s important for consumers to be aware that asbestos is not entirely a thing of the past.

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FDA medical device approval process leaves many questions

When a new drug is being prepared for distribution, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) puts it through a rigorous testing process. It’s so rigorous, in fact, that patients and doctors alike complain about how long it can take for a drug that’s widely available overseas to hit the market in the United States.

The same is not true, however, for medical devices — including surgical implants like hip replacements and bladder meshes. Many of those products, which are often marketed to both doctors and patients as the latest in high-tech medicine, are largely untested when they get put into people’s bodies.

As a result, horror stories abound. Hip replacements break and leave patients unable to walk. The mesh straps inserted in women’s pelvic areas end up hardening and turning rigid, causing pain and infection. Those issues have already produced numerous lawsuits — and more medical implants and devices get recalled all the time.

Now, the FDA is starting to reconsider its approach to medical devices. Currently, unless a medical device’s failure could be clearly fatal (as in the case of a pacemaker), human testing isn’t a requirement before that device is put on the general market. Instead, manufacturers essentially just have to show that their new device is similar to some other device that’s already been used.

However, the FDA is considering some significant changes. Last November, officials announced that they expect to be more demanding during the application process for new medical devices. They also plan to look harder at how medical devices are working, rather than waiting on reports from patients to trickle in and alert them of a problem with a given product.

Will that be enough to adequately protect consumers? Unfortunately, there’s no way to know that.

If you or your loved one suffered harm due to a defective medical device or implant, addressing the issue through a lawsuit may be the only way to obtain fair compensation. For more specific information that pertains to your situation, talk to an attorney as soon as possible.

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Preventing mesothelioma: It’s harder than you know

Most people think that asbestos and asbestos exposure is a thing of the past — but that’s far from true. Asbestos products are still allowed in the United States under limited circumstances and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving forward with plans that would allow asbestos to be used in even more new products.

But what’s coming into the market is not your most serious concern. Instead, you need to be worried about asbestos dangers that are hidden all around you. Asbestos was so commonly used in American homes and buildings that it’s literally just about everywhere you go — especially in older public buildings, like schools. It could be lurking in those old adhesive tiles on your kitchen floor that your Dad put down years ago, and it could be hiding in the attic insulation or wrapped around the pipes in the basement.

The thing about asbestos is this: It’s often more dangerous to remove it than to leave it alone. If it’s underneath the floorboards in the mudroom of your house, for example, it’s probably safer to leave it alone — as long as it’s intact or sealed away. When asbestos begins to break down — which happens when asbestos products are removed — the dangerous fibers that lead to diseases like mesothelioma are thrown into the air where they can get into the lungs of new victims.

The only real way to know if there is asbestos in your home or place of business — and posing a danger — is to have an expert check out the premises. The air can be tested to see if there’s already contamination and the premises can be inspected for asbestos that’s breaking down.

The reality is that anyone can be exposed to asbestos — it isn’t just a problem for “old timers” who worked in factories and shipyards. If you’ve been exposed to asbestos and believe that you’ve developed a medical problem like mesothelioma as a result, it’s wise to speak to an attorney. Learn more about asbestos claims by visiting our site.

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EpiPens were failing — and nobody was listening to the patients

Patients with life-threatening allergies to peanuts, latex and other common substances often carry EpiPens for safety. EpiPens are supposed to deliver critical doses of epinephrine in an emergency so that a patient in the middle of an allergy attack could keep breathing.

Unfortunately, sometime in 2013, some patients discovered problems with their devices. The EpiPens weren’t working properly. Some of them activated prematurely. Some of them couldn’t be activated at all. Some of them arrived with their contents leaking all over the place or the fluid inside strangely discolored. The patients, naturally, complained — and many contacted the manufacturer directly.

Nobody seemed to be listening. In fact, even after a warning by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014, the drug company known as Meridian Medical Technologies (a division of Pfizer), continued on as if nothing was wrong. It wasn’t until a second letter from the FDA prompted a massive EpiPen recall — three full years later — that the drug company bothered to step up its game and change the way it handled patient complaints.

By then, the company’s own data shows that some patients died due to the faulty devices. According to other reports, the drug company had previously dismissed concerns about malfunctioning EpiPens, implying that product malfunctions were common when products are “frequently administered by non-medically trained individuals.” (In other words, they blamed the patients — instead of looking for problems with their own devices.)

This seems like the sort of thing that couldn’t possibly happen in today’s world, where medical data is constantly being cataloged and evaluated. It certainly shouldn’t have been allowed to happen — but it did. When powerful companies have a brand identity to protect, they may be reluctant to even look closely at the products they put out — no matter how many people it endangers. All too often, they only admit liability once they have no other options.

If you were injured or your loved one was killed due to a defective medical device, like a malfunctioning EpiPen, find out more about your right to compensation. Delaying only helps the manufacturer escape further liability for the failure to act responsibly.

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The failure to refer: Is it medical malpractice?

Most family doctors are of the “general practitioner” variety. They’re competent when handling a wide array of disorders and diseases, especially managing the sort of illnesses that many people develop through the ordinary process of aging.

But they aren’t specialists. Specialists have additional training in their fields and are generally better skilled at addressing the diseases under their purview. When a general practitioner is over his or her head with a specific patient — or a specific health complaint from a patient — he or she has an ethical and legal obligation to refer the patient to a specialist when one is available and it’s part of the customary practices of the physician’s peers to do so.

Yet, not every physician is keen on relinquishing control of a patient’s care to a specialist. Some don’t want to relinquish control to another doctor, and some just don’t want their work “questioned” by someone with more medical know-how. Whatever the reason a general practitioner fails to refer a patient to a specialist, the results can be disastrous:

Test results can be incorrectly interpreted

Medical testing is evolving at a rapid pace. Primary care physicians may have trouble keeping up with all of the developments in every field — but that doesn’t excuse them from having to be “experts” for any test that they order and review. Sending a patient to a specialist, however, reduces the chances that a test result will be incorrectly interpreted.

Subtle signs of a serious condition can be overlooked

A patient with chronic joint pain may be experiencing the normal pangs of osteoarthritis associated with age — or suffering from something that has the potential to cause internal organ damage and long-term disability, like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis or lupus. Primary care physicians are often unaware of the subtle clues that can lead to a definitive diagnosis.

Patients can be lulled into a false sense of security

When a primary care doctor dismisses their complaints as something minor, most patients will accept the answer and not push harder for a second opinion. That can cause a delayed diagnosis that could, ultimately, cost the patient’s life in the case of things like heart disease and cancer.

If a doctor’s failure to involve a specialist led to your injury or a loved one’s death, you may have legal options.

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January brings news of more medication recalls

For anybody taking prescription blood pressure medication these days, there’s more bad news regarding recalls. Now, valsartan medications made by Aurobindo Pharma USA, Inc. are being voluntarily recalled.

We recently discussed the massive recalls that have been troubling patients who rely on various forms of valsartan. Valsartan is a medication that belongs to a class of drugs that help relax a patient’s blood vessels so that blood can flow more easily throughout the patient’s body, reducing the intensity at which a patient’s heart has to work and their overall blood pressure.

Valsartan is a common component in many different generic and nongeneric blood pressure medications, manufactured by different drug companies. Some of the companies affected by the recall include Teva Pharmaceuticals, Mylan, Accord Healthcare and Novartis. The recall list has been steadily growing since last August.

The recall started in the United States but has now spread worldwide due to concerns of a contaminant in the supply that likely got mixed in somehow during manufacturing. The contaminant is the chemical called N-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA), which is classified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a probable human carcinogen.

It’s important to note that the trouble is with the presence of NDEA, not the drug itself. Once the drug companies are able to restore production without contamination, patients should feel safe to use the product again. It’s also worth noting that there are no reports — yet — of anyone being harmed by the contaminated drugs, although that’s likely something that many patients wouldn’t know until they develop symptoms of cancer months or years down the road.

Contaminated products are just one of the many hazards that patients face when they take medication. Many drugs are manufactured overseas, and the quality controls in some overseas operations can be questionable. However, patients need to remember that the drug companies bear the ultimate responsibility for putting a safe product on the market.

If you’ve been victimized by a defective drug — whether it was the drug itself that caused your injuries or some contamination from another source — find out more about your right to compensation.

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Tennessee patient dies after surgical needle is left behind

Finding out that a medical object was left inside you after a surgical procedure is finished is one of a patient’s worst nightmares. While considered a rare event, it should never happen at all.

Unfortunately, a Tennessee family is now grieving the loss of one of its members after a surgical needle was left inside a patient’s chest following heart surgery. The patient ultimately died.

The 73-year-old man underwent a nine-hour surgery at a Nashville hospital. When it was over, the surgeon realized that he had left the tool inside the patient’s chest. The hospital used X-rays to confirm what had happened and locate the needle. A second surgeon attempted to get the needle out, but wasn’t able to do so. However, it’s unclear if the surgeon couldn’t locate the instrument or found it too risky to disturb.

Over the month following the initial procedure, the patient’s condition declined. He was never able to leave the intensive care unit. Family members say that their loved one’s death was needlessly painful and could have been prevented if the surgeon had been more careful.

Surgical negligence is a serious issue. There are procedures in place that are designed to account for every item that is used in surgery — from tools like surgical needles and clamps to tiny items like sponges and cloths. Just the same, medical objects end up left behind in patients about once in every 5,500 surgeries.

In many cases, objects left behind in surgery contribute to a patient’s distress and become a source of infection or pain. At the very least, a misplaced surgical object leads to another surgery, additional risks from anesthesia and increased healing time. In the worst cases — like this one — they can lead to an otherwise-avoidable death.

If you or your family member falls victim to this kind of surgical negligence, it’s important to consider all your options for seeking compensation via legal action.

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