Articles Posted in Government Reports

Illinois consumers can now pore over an abundant amount of data, mostly much of it unpublished, about Illinois hospitals and surgery centers on a state-sponsored Web site. The website will include information on what these medical providers charge, how many procedures they perform, how often they deliver recommended care, and how consumers rate their care. They can also find which hospitals use registered nurses most often or which Illinois hospitals perform the most cesarean sections. This will help people become better consumers of medical services and hold medical providers accountable for their performance. The state will also add a great deal of additional information to the Web site over the next year. For example, the website will soon include information about the number of hospital-acquired infections each institution has. The current data includes information on which hospitals adhere most often to the recommended standards of care for patients with heart attacks. This website will help Illinois consumers track medical mistakes.

To visit the website, please click the link.

To read more about the website’s launch, please click the link.

New problems have emerged at the troubled VA Medical Center in Marion, Illinois. This has prompted Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to order a “top-to-bottom” review of the facility. Senator Durbin and other Illinois lawmakers met with the VA secretary after a report this week found ongoing problems at the facility, where nine patients died in surgery in six months ending in March 2007. This is a mortality level more than four times the expected rate. Durbin blamed the nine deaths on “medical malpractice” and called the newly disclosed problems “appalling” and “inexcusable.” The Marion VA’s interim director has been replaced and more personnel changes are scheduled. The new report identified problems in four areas: quality management; physician credentialing and privileging; medication management and environment of care. The final problem area relates to infection control standards and cleanliness of the hospital. The 30-page report identified that two physicians performed procedures for which they lacked privileges. Additionally there was a failure to screen deaths within 30 days of surgical procedure. To read more about the failing hospital, please click the link.

Serious safety issues continue to plague an Illinois Veterans Affairs hospital. This comes even after major surgeries were suspended two years ago because of a spike in patient deaths. Surgeons at the medical center in Marion, Illinois performed procedures without proper authorization. Also, patient deaths were not assessed adequately and miscommunication between staff members persist. The medical center’s is not taking the corrective actions to improve patient care. The hospital has been under intense scrutiny since 2007 when a former surgeon resigned after a patient bled to death following gall bladder surgery. The VA found at least nine deaths between October 2006 and March 2007 which were the result of substandard care at the hospital. Additionally, a report found that the hospital did not sufficiently monitor 87 percent of the physician’s employed. There were strong problems with infection control, including MRSA. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is outraged by the substandard care that is occurring at the Veteran’s Hospital. To read more about the medical malpractice, please click the link.

Medical malpractice reform is unlikely to cut healthcare spending significantly. The Congressional Budget Office found that the savings of medical malpractice reform would only be approximately 0.5% or $11 billion a year at the current level. This is far lower than advocates had estimated. The study shows that enacting a cap on pain-and-suffering and punitive damages, changing liability laws and tightening the statute of limitations on malpractice claims would only lower healthcare by approximately 1% each year. This figure is far lower than estimates by groups that are currently backing malpractice reform. They claim that the reform would save taxpayers somewhere between $100 billion and $200 billion dollars. Since restricting patient’s rights would not result in great savings, medial malpractice reform should be reviewed. To read more about the congressional report, please click the link.

A detailed safety analysis conducted on behalf of Hearst Newspapers found that at least one in six of the studied facilities had preventable deaths. These occurred from common procedures, including cases in which medical instruments were left inside patients and transfusions were done incorrectly. Many hospitals have poor performance in the safety indicators developed in recent years by federal health researchers. The study found that doctors fudge death certificates, leaving out information that would point to medical errors as a prime cause of death. One woman was reported to have died of pneumonia on her death certificate. However hospital records show she initially went to the hospital for a shot of diuretic to treat leg swelling and then contracted an infection which caused the pneumonia. The CDC is aware of the inaccuracies in death certificates. They stated that medical error is “often not reported” because it gives doctors problems down the road. Some groups say that a nationwide reporting system is too expensive and too difficult to implement. However, it may decrease the amount of medical malpractice cases. To read more about the medical errors, please click the link.

A recent investigation by the Hearst Company has drawn attention to the fact that approximately 200 thousand Americans will die this year from preventable medical errors and hospital infections. Currently 20 states have no medical error reporting system in place, five have voluntary ones and five more are developing reporting systems. Even in the 20 states that have the mandatory systems, hospitals report only a tiny percentage of their mistakes, standards vary wildly and enforcement is often nonexistent. The report also blames special interests for blocking progress in the area of medical reporting. A news medical correspondent described some of the most common medical miscues and offered advice to help keep one from being a victim of medical malpractice.

– Make sure surgeons personally sign or initial the skin of the patient over the area that’s being operated on; patients should remind all surgical personnel about the side and site of the procedure – Patient’s should ask what every single medication is that they’re given while in the hospital and remind everyone who approaches them with drugs of any allergies they have – Always look the surgeon in the eye before the operation to avoid any possibility of mistaken identity.

Communication is the greatest key to preventing medical errors which are oftentimes caused by – Poor documentation – Illegible handwriting – Sleep deprivation – Improper nurse to patient ratios

Experts estimate that about 98,000 people die from preventable medical errors each year. This calculates to more Americans dying each month of preventable medical injuries than died in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. In addition, a federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that 99,000 patients a year succumb to hospital-acquired infections. Experts believe that almost all of these deaths are preventable. A huge problem with preventing these deaths is that no definite study has been done to calculate exact numbers. Ten years ago a highly publicized federal report called the death toll shocking and challenged the medical community to cut it in half within the next five years. However, federal analysts believe the rate of medical error is actually increasing. A national investigation by Hearst Newspapers found that the medical community, the federal government and most states have overwhelmingly failed to take the effective steps outlined in the medical malpractice report. Even in states like California, where they have put regulations in place, it appears that hospitals ignore rules without penalty. A study conducted in five states show that only 20 percent of some 1,434 hospitals surveyed are participating in two national safety campaigns. It also showed that a minimum of 16 percent of hospitals had at least one wrongful death from common procedures go awry. Frustrated patient-safety groups say that preventing medical malpractice should be at the forefront of health care. At the center of this would be developing medical design systems that can reduce medical errors and prevent harm from reaching the patient when a medical mistake is made. To read more about the medical malpractice report, please click the link.

It was recently discovered that a patient’s death in a Chicago area hospital was not reported to Illinois state regulators. According to Illinois regulators, the Chicagoland hospital was required by law to report the incident. The Illinois Department of Public Health, according to the article, only learned of the patient’s death a year later. The hospital is also being questioned to whether it overdosed the patient during her stay. Furthermore, a drug the Chicago area hospital prescribed to the patient has not been approved for pregnant mothers, but the patient was eight weeks pregnant.

Read more about the alleged hospital negligence here.

Hospira, a global medication delivery company, is voluntarily recalling a plastic product used to administer injections. A small number of products may be incorrectly labeled. Adverse effects from error may result in electrolyte imbalance, cardiac dysfunction, gastrointestinal disturbances, paresthesia and mental confusion.

For the full story click here.

A recent New York Times article examined recent programs calling for lightened hours for medical residents. The Times piece says that for the standards to be enforced, they need regulations. The panel proposed that residents or no more than 16 hours straight and that every 30-hour shift needs a five-hour sleep break after 16 hours. Such regulations would be great and likely lower rates of medical malpractice and surgical error.

For the full article.

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