Medical errors are an issue in every western nation. In Canada, they contribute to hundreds of deaths and thousands of serious injuries every year. There are many reasons why medical errors occur – overworked medical staff, crowded hospitals, antiquated systems, poor communication – but almost all are preventable. The question, one that has been asked by everyone in the healthcare community, from researchers to medical malpractice lawyers, is how can they be prevented?

Some medical experts believe that technology is the answer, new, innovative technology that fundamentally changes the way doctors learn, treat patients, and communicate. Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS), a technology startup with offices in Boston and London, is at the forefront of this thinking. It provides virtual reality training programs to medical students.

“What we learn in medical school doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the real world,” founder Jack Pottle told The Guardian. “People are making mistakes the world over that impact patients’ lives when potentially they could have been taught in a better, more practical way. Virtual reality gives you clinical experience on demand.”

In other words, OMS’s program provides trainees with hands-on, risk-free training for a wide variety of illnesses. The students can diagnose conditions and prescribe treatments without worrying about harming living patients, and can become familiar with rare and unusual illnesses. In theory, this experience would limit misdiagnoses and reduce errors.

There is also a push for healthcare providers to adopt more sophisticated communication systems and digitize patient records. This would, in theory, reduce miscommunications between healthcare workers (between the doctor writing prescriptions and the pharmacist processing them, for example) and make it easier for patients to understand their medical situation. Cleaner, more orderly medical records could also ensure that patients don’t receive unnecessary treatments or incorrect medications.

It has even been suggested that surgical devices should be catalogued in an RFID system to reduce instances of being left inside patients. That might seem like a farfetched issue, but it’s surprisingly common in Canada, as medical malpractice lawyers know.

Of course, medical errors won’t be eliminated by indiscriminately applying new technologies. Systems will have to be built and capacity expanded at a slow, measured pace. But, as the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed, most western medical systems are simply unprepared for large-scale emergencies; many Ontario hospitals run well over capacity at the best of times. There is no reason not to consider innovative solutions to the issues that cause medical errors.

If you or a member of your family has been injured as a result of a preventable medical error, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced team of medical malpractice lawyers will be happy to review your case and explain your legal options.

 

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Greg Neinstein