By Joe Messa
On September 22, 2012, The Wall Street Journal ran an article, How to Stop Hospitals From Killing Us, written by Dr. Marty Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Dr. Makary points out that “medical errors kill enough people each week to fill four jumbo jets.”
Below is an excerpt from the article:
“As doctors, we swear to do no harm. But on the job we soon absorb another unspoken rule: to overlook the mistakes of our colleagues. The problem is vast. U.S. surgeons operate on the wrong body part as often as 40 times a week. Roughly a quarter of all hospitalized patients will be harmed by a medical error of some kind. If medical errors were a disease, they would be the sixth leading cause of death in America—just behind accidents and ahead of Alzheimer’s. The human toll aside, medical errors cost the U.S. health-care system tens of billions a year. Some 20% to 30% of all medications, tests and procedures are unnecessary, according to research done by medical specialists, surveying their own fields. What other industry misses the mark this often?
It does not have to be this way. A new generation of doctors and patients is trying to achieve greater transparency in the health-care system, and new technology makes it more achievable than ever before.”
Dr. Makary recommends five steps that can be taken to help reform the culture of American medicine and improve the quality of patient care. These steps would help to uncover what medical errors are being made and why they are being made. This offers an opportunity for the medical community to learn from medical errors instead of repeating them and also gives patients the chance to make informed decisions about hospitals and physician offices where they receive treatment. In a five-part series, we will discuss each concept Dr. Makary proposes.
Dr. Makary says that every hospital should have an online dashboard that shares information about its rates for infection, readmission, surgical complications and “never event” errors (mistakes that should never occur, like leaving a surgical sponge inside a patient). Patients should be able to easily access statistics online about how often a hospital performs each type of surgery that it performs on an annual basis. Patients should also be able to see satisfaction scores from other patients.
This type of public access to information would encourage medical professionals to do their best in every patient interaction because if they don’t someone may read about it. Accountability on the part of doctors, nurses and staff for how well patient care is perceived based on public reports causes everyone to become more involved in making sure the care they give a patient is top-notch. It also forces the hospitals to react to medical errors or employees who constantly make errors because it will drive their scores down if the problems aren’t addressed. This type of reporting might cause hospitals to create policies and procedures for medical professionals, but in the best-case scenario it would help to improve patient safety and patient awareness because everyone would have information about a hospital’s performance.
In the article, Dr. Makary talks about the difference in mortality rates at New York hospitals after a policy was put in place that required heart-surgery deaths to be reported in 1989. According to information reported, hospitals with high mortality rates scrambled to improve and in just six years, the death rates declined by 83 percent. The new reporting requirements also lead to dialogue between management and staff at the hospitals about what was needed to make care safer. Changes in staff and other important decisions were made based on that information.
The Philadelphia medical malpractice attorneys at Messa & Associates are experienced at handling cases involving medical malpractice cases resulting from medical errors, including failure to diagnose or treat a condition, medication mistakes, incorrect surgeries or other instances of medical malpractice. Our extremely skilled team of medical malpractice attorneys and medical experts are dedicated to ensuring you receive proper compensation for your personal injuries. If you or a loved one has suffered personal injuries as a result of a medical error or any other negligent care received by a medical provider, contact the medical malpractice attorneys of Messa & Associates for a free consultation. Call toll free at 1-877-MessaLaw, or visit us at www.messalaw.com to submit a free online inquiry.
Joseph L. Messa, Jr. is the founding partner of Messa & Associates, P.C. He is an AV-rated attorney (highest rating available), listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers. Read More