March 17, 2012

Cow Maps But No Infection Maps--Urgent Need to Better Track Hospital Acquired Infections

by Levin & Perconti

Yesterday we discussed the lack of proper tracking methods that fully account for the deaths actually caused by preventable medical errors in all contexts. Each Illinois medical malpractice lawyer at our firm believes that addressing the problem of preventable errors has to begin with understanding what the problem is. Identifying the total cost and number of deaths would seem a basic step in that direction. However, there is a second prong needed to fully address the issue. Not only must we better understand what the problem is, but we need to identify where it is.

This concern was adeptly illustrated in an article earlier this week from the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics, & Policy (CDDEP). The article notes that while we have a “cow density” map explaining the number of livestock in each part of the country, we do not have a similar map for something as important as preventable hospital acquired infections. The comparison is not facetious, as real recommendations were given at a recent healthcare summit for this agricultural model to be mimicked in the healthcare industry.

The article admits that it is hard to even talk about the overall scope of the hospital acquired infection problem, because tracking is so poor. Many estimates explain that roughly one in twenty patients will be affected, but there remains little hard evidence on the depth of the problem. However, that is not an excuse to fail to take action. The article asks the question pointedly, “Why don’t we have a map that maps the rates of deadly superbugs such as MRSA or for that matter all of the major bacteria that cause healthcare acquired infections?”

So why doesn’t such a map exist? It is not because we do not possess the ability to track measures these infections. The problem is that some medical providers involved have engaged in a somewhat absurd range of side arguments about how exactly the effort should progress.

The CDDEP article points much of the blame at powerful lobbying interests for the healthcare industry which works all the time to squash reporting and transparency requirements at medical facilities. Perhaps most infuriatingly, the reasons given by these groups to avoid counting have to do with relatively small disagreements about definitions and claims that hospital personnel would be too burdened to keep track. Meanwhile, patients continue to be infected and die without any real idea of where the problem is worse and where resources need to be focused.

The Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at our firm appreciate that those hurt by preventable medical errors cannot wait for these squabbles to get sorted out before demanding accountability. Fortunately, the civil justice system still exists to ensure each individual case of hospital harm caused by medical malpractice can be brought before neutral bodies and investigated. The healthcare lobby is certainly working to limit this accountability tool as well, but, at least for the time being, those in our state are still able to ensure negligent care providers are held to task when they do not provide the level of care that all patients are entitled.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Filed After Wrongful Death Following Pressure Sore Infection

Federal Government Releases Information on Hospital Errors