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Poor Healthcare in Chicago?

Our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys were concerned this week to read a summary of a new study which revealed troubling information about the state of our local healthcare systems. The latest edition of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association’s “Justice for All” newsletter summarized a Crain’s Chicago Business story on a new report which suggested that Chicagoland ranks quite poorly on a number of healthcare variables: including overall care and costs.

The report, from the Commonwealth Fund found that the city ranked 215th out of the 306 markets nationwide examined. The city was cited for problems in a wide range of areas. The basic rankings were compiled using a range of criteria. In general, our medical malpractice lawyers understand that the information is probably best when used to understand the national average (or median) of some variable and comparing that with the Chicago scores on the variables.

For example, the national median is that 17.7% of Medicare patients require readmittance to the hospital within a month of their previous discharge. How does Chicago score? Worse than the national average. In Chicago, nearly one in four Medicare patients have to go back to the hospital within a month-far higher than in most other parts of the country. Similarly, one common condition, pneumonia, is treated according to proper recommended care nearly 97% of the time in most locations across the country. In the Chicago healthcare market that proper care is only received 92% of the time.

The local market performed poorly in various other areas. Take pain prevention. The nationwide median when all 306 markets were taken into account was that 63.2% of patients had their pain properly controlled. Chicago did not perform that well. Hospitals in our area generally properly controlled patient pain in only 58% of cases. Clearly there is room for improvement.

Surgical problems also exist. The study involved examination of proper surgical preventative care that lessened the risk of complications. The national median was that only 3.8% of surgical patients do not receive proper care to prevent complications. Chicago’s rates are more than 225% higher, at 8%. These are troubling statistics that indicate local patients are simply at significantly more risk suffering from preventable harm.

The problem is not only on quality of care measures. For example, the national average for health insurance premiums is $3,314. In Chicago the rate is 12% higher at around $3,700. What is the cause of the pricing discrepancy? The poor care itself may result in increased costs being passed on to patients. In other words, actually tackling Chicago medical malpractice or other medical quality problems will not only have the obvious improvement in care but will also save money. It is yet another reminder of the wide-ranging toll that these issues have on our overall healthcare system.

Summarizing the overall results of the Commonwealth Fund’s study, one co-author of the report stated that the results “are all symptomatic of a care system that has access barriers to timely and effective primary care, care in the community and it under-investing in public health.”

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