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Transcription error results in patient's death

Houston readers may be interested in a recent medical malpractice verdict in Alabama. The case involved a medication dosage error which resulted in a woman's death. In what may be a sign of our times, the woman may not have died if the hospital had not outsourced its medical transcription services to India.

When the woman was discharged from the hospital, her treating physician dictated a discharge summary - a routine but critically important record. Without the physician's knowledge, the summary was outsourced to India to be transcribed. The summary was transcribed at two locations in India. The transcript that came back from India contained several critical errors - including a misstatement of the dosage of Levemir insulin the patient was to receive during her follow-up care. The doctor had dictated 8 units, but the dosage was incorrectly transcribed as 80 units.

The error was repeated in the admission paperwork the hospital sent to the rehab facility the woman went to after her discharge from the hospital. As a result, when the woman went in for rehab treatment, she was given a dose of insulin 10 times that which was prescribed. She suffered a severe brain injury which shut down her heart and lungs, ultimately causing her death.

The jury in Alabama awarded the woman's family $140 million in damages.

As U.S. hospitals increasingly look for ways to cut costs, outsourcing of transcription and other services to India and other places overseas may become more common. But if U.S. hospitals fail to monitor the quality of the work that comes back, their cost-cutting efforts could be undermined by more verdicts like this one.

Source: WKRG.com, "$140 Million Verdict in Baldwin County," Dec. 14, 2012

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