Hospitals Contribute to 180,000 Deaths Per Year in the US

  • Date: November 29, 2010
  • Source: Admin
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In an alarming revelation, statistics have proved that one out of every seven Medicare patients hospitalized suffers from some kind of physical or mental harm during the stay at the hospital, and adverse circumstances at the hospitals contribute to 180,000 deaths every year, according to a recent study undertaken by the government.
The Institute of Medicine had sounded an alarm over a decade back where it had highlighted the rising risks of infections and outright medical errors. The National Patient Safety Foundation squarely blames the deficiencies in the way doctors are educated and a medical establishment that is resistant to change. Even the newly established Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), the overriding goal of which is to improve the quality of healthcare, has not even started addressing these safety issues. Although some hospitals have taken up issues like hand washing and reducing ICU infections quite seriously, a handful are actually willing to suspend or terminate physicians who violate the safety rules.
Donald Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said that the organisation will address the safety issue in hospitals on a priority basis as the government has to bear a large portion of the $4.4 billion per year as a result of hospital medical errors.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) notes that its members are trying to improve safety training. However, a lot remains to be done. Not only doctors but also nurses, pharmacists, and other clinicians should be taught the basic safety norms. Besides, they should also launch the “intensive faculty development programs” for educating even the professors about the patient safety norms.
In a move to tackle the problems of overpayment, the CMMI has made it binding upon hospitals to report the health problems that a patient has upon admission so that CMMI does not have to pay for treating secondary conditions that can arise as a result of medical treatment. Besides, beginning October 1, 2012, the organisation will also penalize hospitals financially in case of excessive readmissions.
The positive measures for motivating hospitals include bonuses for those hospitals that reduce error rates, the rewards being divided among nurses and other non-physician clinicians. Besides, incentives can also be provided to hospitals adopting surgical safety checklists that have actually shown to save lives.
Towards the beginning of the year, the Senate had passed the health care reform bill which stated that medical malpractice litigation was the jurisdiction of the individual states’ civil justice system and that the compensation would be decided by the jury on a case-by-case basis.
The Senate’s bill has provisions of monetary help for “state demonstration programs” aimed at evaluating alternatives to the current system of medical tort litigation.  According to the bill, states wanting to pursue such demonstration programs must meet the following criteria to receive funding:
    Encourage the disclosure of health care errors
    Encourage the collection and analysis of patient safety data related to health care disputes
    Increase the availability of “prompt and fair resolution” of disputes
    Allow patients to “opt out or voluntarily withdraw” from the alternative program at any time.
Medical errors can cause serious, permanent injury or even death. However, it cannot be said that a medical negligence has occurred just because there has been an injury as a result of a medical procedure. The bill provides that an experienced medical malpractice attorney should be employed in determining whether malpractice occurred and, if so, ensure that the patient is compensated to the full extent permissible under the law.


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