Sunday, November 28, 2010

Little has Changed, Medical Mistakes still Kill 98,000 and Injure 1 Million Each Year!! Prevention best Tort Reform.

While Republicans try to penalize victims of medical mistakes with "tort reform," the smart bet is on preventing those mistakes in the first place, which in the end cut down on malpractice lawsuits. Every interview with a conservative advocate of tort reform should be asked, "what will you tell the families of the 98,000 who died, and over one million injured by medical mistakes a year when you ask them to sacrifice compensation instead of preventing the mistakes before they happen?" Here are the shocking numbers:

NY Times: Efforts to make hospitals safer for patients are falling short, researchers report in the first large study in a decade to analyze harm from medical care and to track it over time. The study, conducted from 2002 to 2007 in 10 North Carolina hospitals, found that harm to patients was common and that the number of incidents did not decrease over time. “It is unlikely that other regions of the country have fared better,” said. The study is being published on Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

It is one of the most rigorous efforts to collect data about patient safety since a landmark report, by the Institute of Medicine in 1999 found that medical mistakes caused as many as 98,000 deaths and more than one million injuries a year in the United States.

Dr. Christopher P. Landrigan, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, focused on North Carolina because its hospitals have been more involved in programs to improve patient safety. But instead of improvements, the researchers found a high rate of problems … 63.1 percent of the injuries were judged to be preventable. Most of the problems were temporary and treatable, but some were serious, and a few — 2.4 percent — caused or contributed to a patient’s death.

Many of the problems were caused by the hospitals’ failure to use measures that had been proved to avert mistakes and to prevent infections from devices like urinary catheters, ventilators and lines inserted into veins and arteries. The researchers found 588 instances in which a patient was harmed by medical care, or 25.1 injuries per 100 admissions.

A recent government report found similar results, saying that in October 2008, 13.5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries — 134,000 patients — experienced “adverse events” … extra treatment required as a result of the injuries could cost Medicare several billion dollars a year. And in 1.5 percent of the patients — 15,000 in the month studied — medical mistakes contributed to their deaths. That report (was) issued this month by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services.

For the most part, the reporting of medical errors or harm to patients is voluntary, and that “vastly underestimates the frequency of errors and injuries that occur,” Dr. Landrigan said. “We need a monitoring system that is mandatory,” he said. “There has to be some mechanism for federal-level reporting, where hospitals across the country are held to it.”

Dr. Mark R. Chassin, president of the Joint Commission, which accredits hospitals, said “it’s not a problem we’re going to get rid of in six months or a year.”

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