Less than half of all Medicare recipients get a stress test before having common non-emergency procedures to reopen blocked coronary arteries, despite the fact that The American Heart Associations recommend it. A cardiac stress test, which is used to measure blood flow to the heart during exercise, can help determine who’s likely to benefit from procedures such as balloon angioplasty, in which a tiny balloon is used to reopen a blocked artery. A study in the Journal of American Medical Association found that only 44 percent of Medicare patients surveyed had a stress test before surgery. The article also stated that there might be confusion among doctors about when to choose surgical intervention over drug therapy for the treatment of coronary-artery disease. The article also linked doctors‚Äô Medicare payment to how closely they follow these recommendations which could prevent unnecessary surgical procedures and medical malpractice suits. To read the full story, click here.
Doctors say that medical mistakes can have more serious consequences in children than they do in adults. A study in the journal Pediatrics found that problems due to medications occurred in 11 percent of children who were in the hospital, and that 22 percent of them were preventable. An Institute of Medicine report found that besides medication errors, children are also the victims of diagnostic errors, incorrect procedures or tests, infections and injuries. Medical errors are a greater threat to children than to adults because they are physically small and their immune systems are still developing. Even a tiny increase in the dose of medication can have serious effects, especially in premature babies. Children deteriorate more rapidly than adults and they are less able to communicate their problems. 32 percent of medication errors in children in the operating room involved the wrong dose, while this only occurs in 14 percent of adults. Experts have come up with ways to reduce the threat of medical malpractice in children such as ID bracelets, ensuring that health care providers are hygienic, getting all the correct information, and asking questions. Although these are ways to reduce risks, it is ultimately the role of the physicians and staff to ensure that children are properly medicated. To read the full story, click here.
A study in the May issue of the Journal of Vascular Surgery shows that the rate of limb amputation is higher in Chicago’s black communities than in suburban white communities. The data showed that blacks in Chicago are five times more likely to have a limb amputated than suburban whites. Notably, many amputations are preventable. Limb amputations can often be the product of low quality health care and doctor errors, poor access to health care resources, and a doctor’s failure to give information about procedures and treatments. One of the more common causes of amputations is untreated pressure sores that may result from diabetes and heart disease.
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A recent op-ed article scrutinized health care oversight. The article argued that there is no reason that any consumer seeking preventive care should risk death while seeking routine medical care at the hands of a profiteering physician. When culpability in a medical malpractice lawsuit becomes revealed, there is no reason that others with close ties to a bad doctor should remain in positions of oversight. The article concludes that a full-scale, top-to-bottom failure of government systems have allowed years of risky behavior to put others at risk of medical malpractice.
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Around 47 million Americans don’t have health care, but even those that do agree that problems in the United States healthcare system need reform. In a recent article, 10 health care experts offered their personal suggestions on how to improve the country’s situation.
1. Mend the medical schools 2. Single-payer insurance (creating a national system)
3. Individual, not company, plans 4. Divert the dollar to the doc 5. Pay for the care of populations, not events (high quality preventive care)
The Illinois Hospital Report Card, the Illinois Consumer Guide to Health Care and another project meant to monitor medical malpractice issues in Illinois hospitals were groundbreaking and exciting initiatives passed in the state in the last four years. However, not much has been done to follow through on these laws. The Chicago Patient Safety Forum has been a strong critic of the delays in implementation even though last year’s Patient Safety Summit in Chicago produced few results. The purpose of the laws was to provide the public with information about their doctors and the medical mistakes they make as well as the hospitals and issues like hospital-acquired infections.
One goal of this legislation was to examine instances of medical malpractice such as birth injuries and surgical errors. The Illinois Hospital Report Card was meant to monitor hospital-acquired infections and if the hospitals are adequately screening patients. It also was to focus on the quality and skills of nursing staffs. The lack of progress has been blamed on problems with the legislation itself, a lack of funding and staff, and bureaucratic delays. Legislators and other officials alike, such as the Illinois Hospital Association, have stated that patients have the right to be informed about their doctors and hospitals.
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Illinois participated in the nation-wide trend to pass legislation making it mandatory to publish health care “report cards” disclosing information about hospital acquired infections and medical malpractice. But while over a dozen states have begun posting the information on the internet, Illinois has yet to move forward with the initiative. Many states publish more specific report cards dealing with “never events,” or mistakes that should never happen, but do. Some examples of “never events” include performing surgery on the wrong patient or body part and other inexcusable examples of negligence. Illinois plans to publish a report, but progress has yet to be seen.
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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced officially that beginning in October 2008 expenses incurred from medical mistakes made by health care providers will no longer be eligible for reimbursement. Providers will also be prohibited from charging patients for these expenses. Private insurers will likely follow suit. Medical malpractice is a pervasive problem for health care in Illinois and in America as a whole. Each year, 1.5 million patients are injured and thousands die from medical errors. The expenses resulting from these mistakes add up, averaging about $29 billion in additional care services and loss of productivity. It is yet to be determined how CMS will determine what the appropriate standard of care is, and it will also have to define “preventable errors” in cases of medical malpractice.
All patients being treated in hospitals, whether for serious surgery or routine procedures, should be made aware of Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus (MRSA), an infection acquired during hospitalization. 100,000 people die of MRSA annually. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one out of every 22 patients will acquire an infection during hospitalizations totaling 1.7 million patients a year. It is also estimated that out of that group, 99,000 would die. MRSA has recently been proven as avoidable in many cases. Pittsburgh Veterans Hospital has cracked down on doctor hygiene and hospital cleanliness, while taking other minor precautions and has noticed a decrease in MRSA infections. According to the hospital’s chief of staff, “the infection control program cost about $500,000 a year, including test kits, salaries for 3 workers, and the $175-per-patient cost of gloves, gowns and hand sanitizer. The hospital… realized a net savings of nearly $900,000 when the number of infected patients fell.” Hospitals should take note, especially since Medicare will no longer pay for “preventable” conditions induced by carelessness or medical malpractice in hospitals. One of the “preventable” categories is certain types of hospital-acquired infections. The hospitals themselves will have to cover these often enormous amounts.
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The American Cancer Society has recently produced an ad campaign stressing the need of adequate quality health care for Americans in order to lower cancer death rates. Among the poorly insured and uninsured, cancer is most often detected at an advanced stage, too frequently proving fatal. The American Cancer Society’s goals of reducing cancer death and incidence rates by 2015, beginning in 1990, will not be met unless access to screening and treatment becomes available to all patients. The society’s chief executive stated that, “lack of access will be a bigger cancer killer than tobacco,” unless the health care system is amended. The delay in diagnosing poorly or uninsured patients causes them to bear the costs of more expensive and difficult treatments. Within families afflicted with cancer, one in four will use most or all of their savings, including one in five insured families, to fight the disease. 47 million Americans do not have health insurance, and millions more only have limited coverage. Access to health care for all Americans will lower cancer death rates, among innumerable other health ailments.
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