How Do Medical Errors Affect Patients?

In her TED talk, Dr. Carol E. Gunn discusses medical errors and their impact on healthcare. Gunn shares the story of her sister Anna who for a long time complained of chest pain. However, the lack of sufficient physician’s attention to her symptoms resulted in a heart attack that Anna could not survive. As a physician herself, the speaker brings up her own experience admitting that medical errors she made harmed several of her patients significantly. Gunn believes that institutional changes in the healthcare system are strongly required to deal with medical errors.

According to Dr. Gunn, the scale of the problem is enormous. It turns out that 200,000 Americans die due to medical errors annually, thus, making this the third leading cause of death in the U.S. The speaker shares an example of her patient who had “belly pains, diarrhea, and weight loss.” Dr. Gunn saw her three times but failed to diagnose and treat the women’s infection, supposedly due to the doctor’s short engagement. Even though the patient eventually survived, her recovery lasted longer than it might have. So, medical errors indeed represent a colossal threat to the quality of medical care and patients’ health.

The speaker also argues that American health care requires a change in the area of correcting medical errors. Dr. Gunn sees these changes in fostering effective communication and a culture of feedback. As a trainee, she received continuous feedback on each patient. However, in the last nine years of her professional practice, she remembers only one example of a doctor recommending an improved treatment to another provider. Thus, it is essential to implement communication tactics and feedback in medical practice to deal with errors.

Overall, the problem raised by Dr. Gunn in her TED talk is indeed very urgent and sensitive for the U.S. Statistics on medical errors, and real people’s cases brought up by the speaker are scaring and signaling about the necessity of changes in the healthcare system. Improvement of communication in the medical field will help is crucial to enhance treatment and minimize the risks associated with human error.