How to Make Hospitals Less Deadly

An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal examines the alarming death toll in American hospitals as a result of preventable shortcomings in the health care system.

Structured as a brief list detailing “how to make hospitals safer,” the article examines five ways in which American hospitals are currently failing to adequately meet patients’ needs—exposing the most troublesome areas for fatal medical error—and offers solutions for how hospitals can reduce the number of deaths by medical error made each year (estimated at between 210,000 and 440,000 in 2013):

1.) Adopt Structured Handoffs

• Two-thirds of fatal medical error is caused by miscommunications during staff shift changes. A 2014 study found that structured handoffs—categorizing illness severity, medical actions, and crisis contingency planning—could curb these errors by as much as 30%.

2.) Bring in the Pharmacists

• According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, erroneous medication orders by prescribing doctors kill thousands of Americans each year. A 2001 study found that putting pharmacists in patient areas in American hospitals decreased prescribing errors by 45%, and cut fatal errors by 94%.

3.) Get Serious About Infection

• According to the CDC, approximately 700,000 patients become infected while hospitalized in American hospitals each year, resulting in 75,000 deaths. At present, CDC guidelines for disinfecting surgical tools and devices only become mandatory in the event of a major outbreak.

4.) Fight Diagnostic Error

• The article suggests that the ever-expanding universe of medical knowledge is too much for doctors to navigate and remain updated on alone. As such, the article suggests encouraging physicians to bring pathologists and radiologists into the fold to ensure that they aren’t misdiagnosing, over-diagnosing, or only partially diagnosing their patients’ maladies.

5.) Make Electronic Health Records Interoperable

• According to the federal government, only 14% of clinicians share data with doctors beyond their care organizations—an act that jeopardizes continuity of care and ensuring accurate diagnoses. Congress has already passed legislation directing interoperability of all patient medical records within four years, but the need for universal access to records among a patient’s myriad providers is immediate.

If you or a loved one has been injured or disabled by a medical malpractice, the first step in effective treatment is to contact your physician immediately. And if you or a loved one needs an aggressive, yet compassionate and caring medical malpractice attorney, contact the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein today.

We partner with highly rated medical malpractice attorneys who work closely with our law firm to help get our clients the justice they deserve. By joining resources and experience, together we know how to hold medical professionals and their insurance companies responsible.

Medical errors may be third-leading cause of death

An analysis by two Johns Hopkins Medical School doctors finds that medical errors account for over 250,000 deaths a year - or almost 10 percent of the total deaths in the United States.  That equates to nearly 700 deaths per day, third only to heart disease and cancer. 

The two authors said the errors include everything from bad doctors, surgical complications, mix-ups with the doses or types of medications, to more systemic issues such as communication breakdowns when patients are handed off from one department to another.  The study was conducted to shed light on a problem that many hospitals and health care facilities often avoid talking about. 

Kenneth Sands - Chief Quality Officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston - says the numbers aren't alarming. “There has just been a higher degree of tolerance for variability in practice than you would see in other industries,” he explained.  For example, when passengers board a plane, there’s a standard way attendants move around and prepare for flight.  Yet such standardization isn’t seen at hospitals.

The study contends that death from medical error has been understated, in large part, because such error by health providers is not included on death certificates.  The analysis also highlights the fact that the coding system used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to record death certificate data doesn't capture things like communication breakdowns, diagnostic errors and poor judgment that cost lives. 

While most doctors and other medical professionals are capable and compassionate individuals, medical mistakes continue to occur and the results can be devastating. A medical malpractice claim is a long and complicated legal matter because it's not always easy to prove causation. In addition, claims are bound by a statute of limitations that defines how long someone has to file a claim. With so much at stake, it’s crucial to retain an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. 

If you or a loved one has been injured or disabled by a medical malpractice, the first step in effective treatment is to contact your physician immediately. And if you or a loved one needs an aggressive, yet compassionate and caring medical malpractice attorney, contact the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein today.

We partner with highly rated medical malpractice attorneys who work closely with our law firm to help get our clients the justice they deserve. By joining resources and experience, together we know how to hold medical professionals and their insurance companies responsible.

Police Warn Mainers About IRS Phone Scam

Law enforcement officials throughout Maine are advising residents to be cautious in light of a recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) phone scam that is currently spreading throughout the state. 

Police and sheriff departments have reported receiving dozens of calls daily from people in Central Maine detailing the aforementioned fraudulent phone call. During these calls, imposted/fake IRS officials call someone to let them know they owe money and must pay it immediately to avoid arrest or lawsuits. 

There are two types of these phone calls circulating - one that involves a real live person, and the another one that contains an automated, prerecorded message.

If you become a recipient of one of these calls, hang up, do not send any money, and contact your local authorities and the state attorney general's office- 800-436-2131

Authorities are especially concerned about elderly people who may be receiving these calls. Police fear that these individuals might not immediately recognize it is a scam and will be duped into thinking they owe back taxes. 

An official statement from the attorney general's office cautions and reassures Mainers that the real IRS don't initiate contact via the phone without first mailing a postal letter. 

If you think that you do actually owe money to the IRS, contact a legitimate number that you know to be correct or visit  

Christmas Tree Safety: Decorate and Celebrate in Smart Style

As you deck the halls and get into the holiday spirit this season, remember to always make safety your number one priority. Christmas trees can pose serious dangers and potential threats if not properly cared for and utilized. 

According to the National Fire Protection Association, each year, fire departments respond to 200+ fires caused by Christmas trees. One-third of these fires are caused by electrical problems, while one in every five of these fires is a result of a heat source being too close to the tree.

Below are some important and worthwhile guidelines to consider when choosing, decorating and maintaining your festive greenery: 

Choosing Your Tree

  • Select a tree with fresh, green needles that do not break off from the branches when touched
  • The trunk bottom of a fresh tree should be sticky with resin
  • When purchasing an artificial tree, look for a “Fire-Retardant” label

Placing Your Tree

  • Trees should never be placed near fireplaces, radiators, heater vents or TV sets
  • Cut off two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for better water absorption
  • Keep the stand of the tree filled with water at all times. A tree will absorb a gallon of water or more in the first 24 hours and one or more quarts a day thereafter

Lighting and Trimming Your Tree

  • Use indoor or outdoor lights that have the label of an independent testing laboratory
  • Check each set of lights for broken or cracked sockets and frayed or bare wires. Discard and replace damaged light sets
  • Use only one extension cord per outlet
  • Never decorate your tree with lit candles
  • Always turn off Christmas lights before leaving your home or going to bed
  • Position bulbs so that they aren’t in direct contact with needles or ornaments
  • Don’t run electrical cords under rugs and be careful when placing cords behind or beneath furniture
  • Decorate your tree with tinsel or artificial plastic or nonleaded metals

Gifts Under Your Tree 

  • Never place wrapped gifts near open flames or electrical wiresRemove all wrapping paper, boxes and other trash from tree area immediately after presents are opened
  • Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace; wrappings ignite suddenly and will burn quickly

Taking Your Tree Down 

  • The longer a tree stays up, the more fire hazards it presents. It is best to dispose of your tree within one month after purchase
  • Never store your tree in your house or garage.
  • Don’t burn the needles or branches of your Christmas tree in a wood stove or fireplace. The sap found on firs and pines can ignite quickly and burn intensely
  • Take your tree to your local community recycling center or have it taken away by a community pick-up service

Following the above guidelines for Christmas trees will help you to have the safest celebration possible. And at the end of the day, being with your friends and loved ones safe and sound in the comfort of your home is what the holiday season is all about.

The Law Offices of Joe Bornstein wishes you and yours a happy, healthy and safe holiday season.


Safe Winter Driving in Maine

It's that time of year again. Temperatures are dropping, and before we know it, snow will be falling. While blankets of snow draping our towns and cities are nice to look at, they do not make for a winter wonderland on the roads. Cold weather conditions create many hazards and pose serious threats to safe driving.

At the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein, we see firsthand the effects of dangerous winter driving. Many hazardous driving conditions cannot be avoided, but being aware of important winter driving tips will help to lessen your chances of having an accident. The following guidelines will help Mainers navigate the upcoming frosty season:

Stay home if you can: Avoid excessive and unnecessary driving during storms. If you must travel, allow time for maintenance trucks to plow, salt and sand the roads.

Prep your vehicle: Prior to taking your car out on winter roads, make sure that it is equipped with the proper snow tires. Test the brakes, battery, exhaust system and defrosters. Check fluid levels, add antifreeze and switch to winter-weight oil.

Pack emergency equipment: Stock your car with a winter driving survival kit that includes: a flashlight, a shovel, a snow scraper/brush, sand or kitty litter for if you get stuck, and booster cables.

Reduce your speed: Extra time and distance is required in order to stop on snow or ice without skidding. Drive below posted speed limits, especially at intersections, off ramps, bridges and shady areas where black ice can form.

Never tailgate: Always keep at least three times more distance than usual between you and the car in front of you. Test your brakes often- brake slowly and never slam on the brakes.

Know your car’s limits: Do not assume that your car can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel drive cars and trucks can encounter trouble on icy roads.

Use the correct gears: Avoid using cruise control on slippery roads and use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills and unplowed roads.

Control your driving: Avoid any sudden actions while steering, braking or accelerating in order to stay on course.

Don’t panic if you skid: If you find yourself skidding on slick roadways, try to remain calm and do not brake. Instead, take your foot off the gas pedal and turn your car in the direction that you want to go. Use gentle, steady motions when turning the steering wheel.

Stop spinning the wheels if you get stuck: If you are stuck in snow, spinning the wheels will only make you dig deeper. Instead, turn your wheel side-to-side to clear snow out of the way and then lightly press on the accelerator. If necessary, shovel away snow and pour kitty litter around the wheels to help with traction.

Avoid distractions: Don’t talk on the phone while you are driving. Keep a charged cell phone with you in case of emergencies, but refrain from doing anything that keeps you from fully focusing on your driving and that of the vehicles around you.

With only one big winter storm under our belts thus far, it is inevitable that we Mainers have many more to come this season. By following the above guidelines, you will be better prepared to make it from point A to point B safe and sound during flurries, wintry mixes, blizzards and Nor’Easters.

Travel safely and always remember:

When driving in ice or snow, Joe says “please go slow.”

Portland Bans E-Cigarettes

Effective in less than a month's time, our city of Portland will have a ban on e-cigarettes in public places. The council voted 7-1 in favor of banning these smoking devices in all locations where regular tobacco products are also prohibited. 

E-cigarettes, popular alternatives for those who are trying to quite traditional smoking, deliver nicotine and vapor electronically. 

Portland is the 275th city or town in the country to ban these tools. 

Volkswagen Recalling Millions of Diesel Vehicles

Volkswagen is in the preliminary stages of planning a massive recall of diesel cars affected by the recent scandal, in which the company admitted installing software in some diesel cars that allowed them to pass United States emission standards. The software was designed to make the cars appear that they were within the legal limit for emission standards, when in fact they were not. Volkswagen has admitted that the software was installed in approximately 11 million vehicles, but says that the software was not activated in all of the vehicles. The actual number of vehicles that will be subject to the recall has not yet been determined. The refitting of the affected cars will involve changing of the software that gives a false reading of the engine emissions.

Volkswagen is currently in the initial planning stages for the recall. Any and all changes to the software must be approved by the appropriate State and Federal regulatory agencies before the recall can be implemented.

More information will be available on a website to be established by Volkswagen. The company hopes to have additional information available to customers within the next month.

Dangers of Distracted Pedestrians & Texting While Walking

It is a common sight they we now are all accustomed to seeing - people strolling along and navigating city streets while using their cell phones. According to recent data from the National Safety Council and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, there has been a significant increase in injuries suffered by pedestrians who are distracted by talking or texting on their cell phones. As more and more people use their mobile devices while walking, and even crossing streets, the number of emergency room visits by 'distracted walkers' has grown. This trend is particularly worrisome as more and more children and teenagers own mobile devices, and are also using them in this dangerous manner.

To reduce the dangers of 'distracted walking,' the National Safety Council recommends the following precautions:

-  Do not walk, talk and text

- If you have to talk or text, move out of the way of other pedestrians, to the side of the walkway

- Never cross or walk in the street while using an electronic device

- Do not walk with headphones in your ears

- Be aware of your surroundings

For more information this issue and other safety related news, please visit

Joe Bornstein's Community Connections

At the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein, it’s our pleasure and privilege to be able to give back to the communities in which we live and serve.

We see the efforts of numerous charities and organizations that are dedicated to improving the quality of life in Maine on a first-hand basis with many of our clients. It’s with great pleasure that we commend these efforts with our respect, gratitude, and financial support.

Through a variety of resources, we are able to address important issues such as education, healthcare, civil rights and access to public transportation. It’s an honor to have represented more than 23,000 Mainers in our 41 years and it's an honor to be able to give back to the state we love so much.

In the past 10 years, our law firm has given away over $1,000,000 to the worthy organizations and charities including:

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Lyme Disease Awareness Month - Safety Information

Lyme Disease Awareness Month is a public service campaign supported by the Lyme Disease Foundation to educate the public about prevention and treatment of Lyme disease, which is a growing problem in parts of the country, including Maine.  The incidence of Lyme disease in Maine has been steadily increasing over the past several years, with more and more cases being diagnosed every year.

As most Mainers may know, it is the deer tick that that is responsible for most cases of Lyme disease in the Northeast.  Deer ticks thrive in heavily wooded areas, even in areas with long and harsh winters.

It is worth repeating the advice about how to prevent deer tick bites.  Recommendations include:

- Wear white or light clothing if you walk in wooded (or even grassy) areas, as it will be easier to spot the tiny, dark-colored ticks

- Shirts should be tucked into your pants, and socks should be pulled up over the bottom of your pants

- Insect repellent may be helpful, although repellent alone is not enough to protect you from tick bites

- Pets should be checked for ticks frequently

If you are bitten by a tick, removing the tick from your body may reduce the risk of disease from the bite.

More information about Lyme disease prevention and treatment is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at<>, and<>.

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