Preventable Hospital Errors

October 25, 2013

by:  George Wise

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine published a widely cited study called To Err Is Human. In it we learned that 98,000 people were dying every year from preventable errors in hospitals. Unfortunately, that study underestimated the number of deaths. According to a new study just out from the prestigious Journal of Patient Safety, four times as many people die from preventable medical errors than we thought, as many as 440,000 a year.

Read the study here.

Medical errors now claim the spot as the third leading cause of death in the United States, ahead of auto accidents and diabetes. Only cancer and heart disease cause more deaths. It is likely the estimates in this new study will replace the Institute of Medicine estimates from 1999. That means hospitals are killing off the equivalent of the entire population of Pulaski County, Arkansas every year. More than a thousand people a day are dying from preventable errors.

These deaths are not from the illness which hospitalized the patient in the first place. Patients are dying from preventable errors due to a lack of emphasis on safety. These preventable errors are common and well known. A sponge left inside the surgical patient causing a massive infection. A massive medication overdose. Infections from contaminated equipment used at the bedside. Following safety rules prevents these errors.

When will it end? Society picks up the costs of these errors in the form of higher costs for hospital care. Employers lose good employees and thousands of dollars in lost productivity. Families needlessly lose loved ones. We need to insist that hospitals implement safety standards to eliminate these errors. Safety first should be a hospital’s motto.


Tort Deform Myth Busted

August 27, 2013

Arguments supporting restrictions on the right to a jury trial (mischaracterized as tort or lawsuit reform) are based primarily on myths and unsubstantiated anecdotes. One of these myths is that doctors practice defensive medicine more often in states without caps on damages; therefore, caps on damages will reduce defensive medicine. A new study busts this myth.

According to a study by the Center for Studying Health System Change in the August Health Affairs, physicians’ perception of their risk of malpractice liability predicts their practice of defensive medicine. Below is the abstract of the newly released study:

Health Aff (Millwood). 2013 Aug;32(8):1383-91. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2013.0233.

Abstract

Despite widespread agreement that physicians who practice defensive medicine drive up health care costs, the extent to which defensive medicine increases costs is unclear. The differences in findings to date stem in part from the use of two distinct approaches for assessing physicians’ perceived malpractice risk. In this study we used an alternative strategy: We linked physicians’ responses regarding their levels of malpractice concern as reported in the 2008 Health Tracking Physician Survey to Medicare Parts A and B claims for the patients they treated during the study period, 2007-09. We found that physicians who reported a high level of malpractice concern were most likely to engage in practices that would be considered defensive when diagnosing patients who visited their offices with new complaints of chest pain, headache, or lower back pain. No consistent relationship was seen, however, when state-level indicators of malpractice risk replaced self-rated concern. Reducing defensive medicine may require approaches focused on physicians’ perceptions of legal risk and the underlying factors driving those perceptions.

The findings of this study suggest that malpractice reforms touted for years as reducing defensive medicine, such as caps on damages, do not change how physicians practice. On the other hand, one could certainly argue that there is actually no such thing as defensive medicine. Either a test or procedure is necessary or it is insurance fraud to bill for it.

Under the Arkansas Constitution, the right to a jury trial is protected by language which says, “The right to a jury trial shall remain inviolate…”. Inviolate means untouched and undisturbed. The right to a jury trial should remain untouched and undisturbed and not subject to restrictions based on myths.


Reblog: Tort Reform Measures Increase Risk of Birth Injuries Such as Kernicterus

March 29, 2013

 

Recent statistics demonstrate that tort reform measures, such as those that lead to less testing of patients, will cause thousands more to die and many more to be severely injured.

BOSTON, MA, March 29, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ — "The U.S. health system is the most expensive in the world, but comparative analyses consistently show that United States underperforms relative to other countries on most dimensions of performance."

That is the lead sentence of a recent comprehensive report by the non-partisan Commonwealth Fund called "Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall" – How the Performance of the U.S. Health Care System Compares Internationally – June 2010 (see link below). According to the report, the U.S. ranks dead last on patient safety; although our system is far more costly than any other system in the world. The authors point out that we have no national policies that promote quality improvement.

Instead, we see initiatives to reduce "defensive medicine" to allow doctors to do fewer tests to save costs, regardless of how many more lives are lost due to undiagnosed conditions. Recent statistics demonstrate that tort reform measures, such as those that lead to less testing of patients, will cause thousands more to die (beyond the nearly 100,000 that die each year from medical errors), and many more to be severely injured. We are justifiably outraged when auto makers reason that it is better to have a statistically significant number of people die than to correct safety problems. Since Americans don’t accept this reasoning and the disregard for human lives by auto makers, why would we accept it from our hospitals and the medical system, whose errors cause far more deaths than cars? There are at least two answers: (1) everyone drives cars, but not enough of us see ourselves or our children as vulnerable patients relying on safe care, and (2) the medical community keeps changing the topic to tort reform and defensive medicine each time someone mentions medical errors.

Source:  Tort Reform Measures Increase Risk of Birth Injuries Such as Kernicterus – World News Report.


REBLOG – STUDY: Texas Tort Reform Did Not Reduce Health Care Costs

June 27, 2012

In 2003, Texas voters approved Proposition 12, tort reform which capped medical malpractice payouts and made it more difficult for patients to sue hospitals. Republican politicians, led by Gov. Rick Perry (R), claimed that doctors were providing less services to patients because they feared getting sued. Republicans, joined by a “Yes on 12” campaign funded by the health insurance industry, promised that the amendment would lower health care costs and bring an influx of doctors to the state. Since 2003, Republicans nationwide have touted Texas as a model for tort reform.

Read More . . . 236 More Words

Source:  STUDY: Texas Tort Reform Did Not Reduce Health Care Costs.

This post is brought to you from The Brad Hendricks Law Firm as a service to provide legal and other information of public interest. If you have any questions about this or any other post, please contact our firm at (501) 221-0444 or (800) 603-5100 or email us. Our firm provides legal counsel in the areas of Personal Injury, Medical Malpractice, Social Security, Bankruptcy, Business Law,Employment Law, and Family Law, among others.


A Comment about the American Health Care System

March 9, 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 9:19 AM – by Ezra Klein, The Washington Post

On Sunday, I reported on new data from the International Federation of Health Plans showing that health-care prices are far higher in the United States than anywhere else. An MRI, for instance, costs $1,080 here, but only $280 in France. The disparity is explained, I said, by the fact that in other countries, the government sets the price and providers take it or leave it.

But some readers thought I missed the boat on this one. So let’s go through some of the objections.

Continue Reading . . . .

Ezra Klein is the editor of Wonkblog and a columnist at the Washington Post, as well as a contributor to MSNBC and Bloomberg. His work focuses on domestic and economic policymaking, as well as the political system.


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