Saturday, October 4, 2014


The title is a line out of story analysis at Voxdotcom about our current state of health care. Obviously, it's not good.

It demonstrated to me how ridiculous the Republican "solution" is, tort reform, because it seeks to reign in malpractice lawsuit settlements instead of eliminating the problem at the front end. Fewer errors, fewer injuries and fewer deaths, a much healthier way to solve the problem than vilifying people killed or injured by a faulty system.
DEATHS FROM MEDICAL ERRORS ARE EQUIVALENT TO 10 JUMBO JETS CRASHING EACH WEEK: We don't know exactly how many Americans are killed in hospitals each year, but we do know that it is a lot.

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine published a seminal report titled To Err is Human, which estimated that at least 44,000 patients — and as many as 98,000 — die in hospitals each year as results of medical errors.

Even using the lower-bound figure, that would mean medical errors in hospitals kill more people annually than "such feared threats as motor-vehicle wrecks, breast cancer, and AIDS."

follow-up study published in 2013 argued that the IOM numbers were a vast underestimate, and that medical errors contribute to the deaths of between 210,000 and 440,000 patients. At the lower bound, that's the equivalent of nearly 10 jumbo jets crashing every week — or the entire population of Birmingham, Alabama dying every year.
 And hospitals don't really care:
Commonwealth Fund's Blumenthal argues that the problem with hospital errors has much to do with medical culture, in which doctors rarely discuss their mistakes. Blumenthal remembers, shortly after the landmark IOM report came out, trying to start up a consulting business that would teach hospitals how to reduce errors. "I thought it was this great little consulting opportunity," he says. "But there was just no interest. It was sobering, and it made clear that abstract data was not going to change the behavior of complicated health care institutions."
Shifting health care from an accountable government to the individual is one way to hide each and every problem. What we don't know about, won't hurt us right?
And on their own, patient deaths are small events that often happen with little notice or fanfare, making them less noticeable than other events. "Even here in Houston, if a small plane crashes by the airport, that makes the evening news," says John T. James, founder of Patient Safety America, who authored the 2013 report. "But people dying in hospitals are happening one at a time and in insolation, and we pay less attention."

James has argued that the United States should have something akin to the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates every plane crash in the United States, except for patient deaths from medical errors. Even if it couldn't get to each and every case (there are thousands more patient deaths than airplane accidents), it would create some federal oversight that, right now, does not exist.


Anonymous said...

To say that "hospitals really don't care" ibecause they didn't take this guy up on his consulting business is highly unfair. It does not mean hospitals have not been working to reduce medical errors particularly since Medicare will not cover any condition acquired because of medical error or negligence, such as succumbing to an infection.

There are dedicated women and men working in the halls of our hospitals and I've never met one that does not or would not care about medical errors, and not because of a potential lawsuit.

I'm not a supporter of tort reform and I realize you are painting hospitals with a broad brush. I just find it unfair for people who put themselves on the front lines of difficult and risky work.

Democurmudgeon said...

I agree with you, and I don't blame the dedicated people working in hospitals.

I'm talking management. They've been trying but as an industry, things don't look good. It would be interesting to see how other countries compare.

I am being a little broad, but it's an industry wide thing, with assistance from the tort reformers.