How triage practices can fail you at the emergency room

by | Oct 12, 2020 | Medical malpractice

Sometimes, emergency rooms can go a long time without any new admissions, only to then get slammed by multiple people needing attention immediately. When an emergency room is busy, the medical professionals handling the influx of patients engage in triage to make the best use of the space, professionals and equipment available.

Unfortunately, triage often involves making quick decisions that can later prove incorrect. In other words, someone who needs immediate care might arrive at the hospital, only to wind up waiting for so long that they experience adverse side effects when medical staff doesn’t adequately verify the severity of their condition or makes the wrong decision based on the symptoms they present.

How does emergency rooms staff perform triage?

When there aren’t enough beds or medical staff available to treat everyone right away, those handling intake have to quickly evaluate a patient’s condition to determine who needs care most quickly and how to allocate available resources.

For example, they should probably get someone experiencing a cardiac arrest back to a specialist for intervention as soon as possible, while those with broken arms can probably wait a little bit for treatment. It is easy to understand the importance of triage procedures, especially when there are many patients waiting for care.

Bad judgment calls or inaccurate information about different medical concerns can lead to mistakes, especially if the patient doesn’t properly describe their medical symptom. Staff may overlook unusual symptoms for potentially life-threatening conditions if they don’t have the right information or aren’t really listening to the patient as they talk about their condition.

What does a triage mistake mean for the patient involved?

Mistakes about who gets treated first and the severity of someone’s condition could easily mean that one patient’s condition deteriorates quickly due to lack of intervention. A stroke, heart attack or even internal bleeding left untreated for too long could result in a drastically worse prognosis for the patient.

If you didn’t receive timely treatment in the emergency room or if you have a loved one who died because emergency room staff members overlooked the symptoms of a severe condition, you may have grounds to bring a medical malpractice claim against the facility or professional involved in that failure.