Most people realize that there is a possibility they will not get a good result when going to a hospital. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to identify when the bad result was caused by preventable medical error. Doctors and hospital staff are not always forthcoming about mistakes that cause a patient harm. According to recent research from Johns Hopkins University, some errors are almost never reported to the affected patient.
Going to a hospital with one medical problem and acquiring one or more problems while there is hardly an unusual occurrence. Hospital acquired infections are a common problem in certain health care facilities. Some of the most common pathogens are antibiotic resistant and have been known to cause serious medical problems, even death. One of the measures often employed to stop the spread of infections in a hospital is the use of sterile gloves and medical gowns by doctors. A recent study suggests that those measures are not effective in stopping the spread of all bacterial infections.
Sacred Heart Hospital has had its license revoked by the Illinois Department of Public Health. The hospital had been closed since July 1, following an FBI raid. The State determined that the facility was "not fit, willing and able to provide a proper standard of care." The FBI raid concerned questionable billing practices as well as allegations of fraud and a kickback scheme to obtain greater funds from Medicare and Medicaid. Federal officials are also looking into five or more patient deaths potentially stemming from failures by the hospital and doctors employed there to see to the health and safety of patients.
Recent research has shown that diagnostic errors were the most common basis for successful medical malpractice claims from 1986 to 2010. A study of such claims in the National Practitioner Data Bank revealed that incorrect, missed or delayed diagnoses made up 29 percent of the nearly 350,000 successful malpractice claims filed during that period. The study was conducted by neurologists at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and appears in BMJ Quality & Safety.
March 4 through March 10 is National Patient Safety Awareness Week. The initiative is led by the National Patient Safety Foundation and focuses on an issue that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans every year. According to the Patient Safety in American Hospitals Study, conducted by HealthGrades Inc., there were more than 200,000 potentially preventable deaths suffered by Medicare patients last year. This theme of this year's Patient Safety Awareness Week is "Be Aware for Safe Care." The theme highlights the importance of educating patients and helping them be engaged in the care they receive. Patient engagement is an important factor in the quality of care received and in the outcome of the course of treatment.
A Pennsylvania study has revealed an increase in the number of errors associated with the use of electronic health records. Between 2004 and 2011, hospitals in that state reported 3,099 total incidents related to faulty electronic health records. Of those, 1,142 occurred in 2011. That was nearly double the total reported for 2010. The data did indicate that the vast majority of the errors did not lead to patient harm.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a study showing a significant rise in the number of emergencies during delivery and severe complications in the days after delivery from 1999 to 2009. Life-threatening complications during delivery rose 75 percent while severe post-delivery complications more than doubled. The lead author of the study referred to the results as a "clarion call" for medical professionals to address maternal complications.
A survey sponsored by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America looked into the treatment recommended by primary care and emergency physicians for anaphylaxis. The survey identified "likely deficiencies" in the knowledge of how to treat the condition and keep it from recurring. Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction that reaches life-threatening severity. It sets on quickly, generally within seconds or minutes of exposure to an allergen. If not treated quickly, it often leads to unconsciousness and even death.
Leapfrog Group is a nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C. that helps employers and other health care purchasers by gathering and disseminating data about the quality of available health care. The group recently released a report card that identifies which hospitals present the most hazardous environments for patients in terms of preventable medical errors and other injuries. The report card assigns facilities a grade, from A through F, to give consumers an easily understood representation of hospital quality.
According to the Institute of Medicine, medical mistakes cost the U.S. health care system between $17 and $29 billion a year. It estimates that medical errors kill nearly 2,000 people per week. New technology and, potentially, new attitudes among rising doctors could greatly reduce medical malpractice and make the health care system safer for everyone, according to surgeon Marty Makary. According to Dr. Makary, secrecy among medical professionals and hospitals must be overcome before the industry can improve its dismal record of safety.