Exploring the Common Errors of Urgent Care Facilities

Monday, June 26, 2017

Exploring the Common Errors of Urgent Care Facilities

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

Urgent Care Facility Malpractice Attorneys Serving Victims in Chicago

When you are sick or injured, you have a few options for medical care: your family physician, emergency room, or an urgent care center.

Urgent care centers and clinics are supposed to provide quality medical care when family physicians are unavailable. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of urgent care clinics to fill the gaps seen in local hospital emergency rooms. However, with that growth of facilities comes an equal increase in the number of errors, as these facilities are understaffed or staff with untrained professionals who can cause serious injuries or illnesses. Speak with one of our experienced injury attorneys today for a free consultation.

What is Urgent Care?

Urgent care centers are walk-in emergency care facilities, but they are not there to supplement for life-threatening emergencies. These facilities offer medical care when primary physicians are closed and they have easy access to urgent care around-the-clock. Some of these facilities are open 24 hours per day, seven days per week, while others only offer extended hours during the week and limited hours on the weekends.

Urgent medical care centers typically treat:

  • Minor falls and accidents
  • Sprains or strains
  • Moderate back pain and issues
  • Moderate or mild asthma attacks
  • Fever, flu, or severe colds
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Skin rashes
  • Small breaks and fractures
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Dehydration
  • Eye irritation
  • Diagnostic services, including X-rays and laboratory tests
  • Lacerations

Life-threatening emergencies, such as a heart attack, convulsions, fevers in infants, and other more serious medical problems are not for urgent care facilities.

Common Hazards Seen with Urgent Care Facilities

Urgent care offers emergency and after-hours services. They advertise themselves as a convenient way to avoid the costs and wait times of a traditional emergency room. They are also there to take the overflow of emergency rooms for non-serious cases. This allows the emergency room staff to focus on life-threatening concerns. However, there are serious hazards and errors common in these facilities.

Not Monitoring a Patient’s Vital Signs, or Releasing a Patient Too Early

Urgent care facilities have the capacity to monitor vital signs of every patient they take. However, many fail to re-evaluate patients before discharging them. One study found that 10 percent of high-risk patients had abnormal vital signs and were released anyway. Another 16 percent were released without any re-evaluation of their vital signs.

Failure to monitor a patient or prematurely discharging a patient is a grave risk to public health and safety. A patient suffering chest pain could be discharged and have a catastrophic cardiac incident. A person with a fever could suddenly develop chest pain or difficulty breathing.

Poor Compliance and Missed Opportunities

Misdiagnoses and compliance issues with medical standards are also common in urgent care facilities.

Sometimes, these facilities fail to take a complete history before examining the patient. Other times, they quickly diagnose without proper testing or follow-up. The misdiagnosis, in some instances, is fatal.

Poor compliance with all risk factor analysis increases the likelihood of a patient injury or death. These are preventable incidents because, if the physician were to follow all risk factor analysis and compliance requirements for patient intake, they would not misdiagnose their patients.

Missing or Inaccurate Charts

These facilities see patients in high volume, as an emergency room. Regardless of how busy they are, they are required to chart all symptoms and examinations completed on the patient properly. A surprising number of medical records are incomplete or inaccurate.

Physicians may make quick notations, skip steps in diagnostics, or fail to review the patient’s history – even if the nursing staff took a full history.

Failure to Note Pain Complaints

Numerous things cause pain, such as a physical injury, nerve damage, bleeding, or a clot. It is an urgent care doctor’s duty to ask patients where it hurts, but also assess issues of radiating pain.

Pain radiation can help a doctor differentiate between chest pain and an aortic dissection (a life-threatening condition that requires immediate surgery). Commonly, aortic dissection presents as stomach pain. If a physician were to not properly examine or assess radiating pain in a patient with stomach pain, they might miss a dissection.

Wound Care Errors, Mistakes, and Infections

The most common reason for a lawsuit against urgent care facilities is their efforts toward wound care. Wound care issues might result in adverse events, such as infection, scarring, or other problems.

The physician typically fails to read the order, conduct imaging scans to rule out foreign bodies, or does not properly sanitize equipment, which leads to a painful infection.

Failure to Provide Thorough Discharge Instructions

When a patient leaves an urgent care facility, they are required to have discharge instructions. These guidelines might require the patient to follow up with family care in the morning, come back to the urgent care facility for suture removal, or seek further in-depth testing. Also, there may be signs to monitor at home, and these should be detailed in writing, so patients are fully informed. Discharge instructions are not just a component of high-quality medical care; they protect the patient and the provider from any misunderstandings that could lead to further injury or complications.

Failure to Identify the Source of a Fever

Fevers are the body’s means of fighting an infection. However, there is a reason the body has a fever. Urgent care facilities often diagnose and treat patients with fevers. However, if they only treat the fever and do not accurately diagnose where the source of the fever comes from, it can lead to further complications. For example, a small infant may have a fever. The urgent care doctor fails to inquire about immunizations and writes off the fever as the flu. Later, it turns out that the infant was not immunized and has a life-threatening measles infection.

Failure to Diagnose

Failure to diagnose occurs when a high-risk patient enters the urgent care facility, and the physician either fails to come to the proper diagnosis or provides the wrong diagnosis. By the time the correct diagnosis is discovered, the patient may suffer unnecessary harm, pain, or result in a fatality.

Ignoring the Issue of Compartment Syndrome

Patients involved in accidents will have a myriad of symptoms. However, certain types of injuries lead to bleeding and swelling, and an area may be restricting blood flow. If the physician does not assess the patient for the risk of compartment syndrome or diagnose it correctly, it could result in a fatality. Compartment syndrome is uncommon, but urgent care doctors must be aware of the possibility of this condition, especially if treating accident victims.

Failure to Use Diagnostics

Most urgent care facilities are equipped with proper diagnostics, including imaging technology and on-site laboratories. If a physician in those facilities fails to conduct the right diagnostics, such as ordering an x-ray on a possibly broken arm, he or she is acting negligently and falling below the expected standard of care.

Physicians cannot accurately diagnose without conducting some diagnostic procedure. Whether it is listening to a patient’s chest, taking vital signs, performing digital imaging scans, or ordering blood work, a diagnostic procedure must be done to diagnose a patient accurately.

Unfortunately, when urgent care clinics (and hospitals) are overwhelmed, it is easier to prescribe and treat than properly diagnose. Without following diagnostic procedures, a patient could have a serious, if not life-threatening, condition left undiagnosed.

Wrongful Death Cases from Inadequate Urgent Care Facilities

In cases where the patient dies from a medical error in an urgent care facility, surviving family members or the estate may file a wrongful death lawsuit against that facility. In this case, the facility’s owner, the physician, and any interested parties may be held liable for the actions of the staff.

Damages in this instance might include:

  • Loss of companionship
  • Loss of wages and services
  • Payment for funeral expenses
  • Medical costs that directly relate to the patient’s death and injury

Do You Have a Case Against an Urgent Care Facility?

Not all poor outcomes from an urgent care facility are negligent or poor quality of care. Instead, it comes down to the type of care provided and comparing that care to what a prudent, competent physician in a similar situation might do.

If a competent physician determines he or she would have conducted themselves differently, then there might be a case of medical malpractice.

If you do have a case, you might receive compensation for:

  • Medical Costs
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Lost Wages
  • Loss of Earning Capacity (if disabled)
  • Emotional Trauma
  • Future Medical Costs
  • Loss of Quality of Life

Consult with a Malpractice Attorney Regarding Your Urgent Care Injuries

If an urgent care facility injured you or a loved one, it is best that you consult with a malpractice attorney. Malman Law has experience handling these types of cases. We are here to help you examine the evidence and determine if there is malpractice. If we determine that you are the victim of negligence, we will aggressively fight for your right to compensation. To explore your options or to speak with an attorney for a no-obligation consultation, call us today or ask us a question online.

Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

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