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Doctor Spends Life Exposing Underperforming Hospitals

Forbes recently profiled an amazing doctor who has spent his career working to improve medical care across the country. For two decades Dr. Harlan Kumholz has sought to measure the real- world effect of hospital care to better understand what parts of medical service are being ignored, what parts are working, and the processes that fail.

At first, Dr. Kumholz received very little support from the medical community. But his techniques were slowly perfected and his results were hard to ignore. For example, in 2004 he proved that two-third of all heart attack patients were not getting angioplasties within 90 minutes of arriving at the hospital as recommended. Those delays in providing the procedure-which reopens clogged arteries with a balloon tipped catheter-led to increase death from heart attacks.
The doctor was able to show that the delay in care was not the fault of ambulance time, but instead caused by delays in the time when the patient was actually in the hospital.

He also was able to show that many heart-failure patients are given inadequate care which leads them to becoming “revolving door” patients-they are forced to head back to the hospitals very shortly after leaving. In other work he has shown that 25% of heart patients are never given basic aspirin when they need it and that beta blockers were never prescribed to 50% of the patients who should have gotten them.

His program is now used by the federal government’s Medicare program to compare hospitals. Dr. Kumholz has developed skills to put systems in place that ask the right questions and use the appropriate measurements to get to the root of medical quality information. This has all been a revolution for the medical profession, which has been slow to use data-driven quality measurement to improve care.

Dr. Kumholz’s research verifies what our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti have witnessed in our work with hundreds of victims of medical errors. Most doctors are highly capable experts who save lives every day, but some are not. Those that fall below standards much be made to improve the quality of their care so that more victims do not suffer from their medical mistakes.