MEDICAL ERRORS

Going to the doctor may be deadly for your health! The risk of poor health care is high.  Recently published findings show medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the USA.

The underlying causes of rising medical errors are multifactorial.   It being the third leading of cause of death in the US hints at the cost of poor healthcare delivery.

The literature suggests rising medical errors is symptomatic of our aging society.  Also, a culture where health care providers are chronically overworked and understaffed. A culture where working while sick is a sign of strength, responsibility, and dedication among medical professionals.

Such is the culture of healthcare that contributes to medical error despite advances in technology and knowledge.

In 2013 medical errors caused 440,000 deaths in the USA:  Medical error defined as appears to be on the rise.

In 1999, the publication ‘First Do No Harm‘ did much to shine a light on fundamental problems in medicine. Each year, medication errors alone harm 1.5 million American patients. Tired, overworked health care providers often dismiss patient’s problems and become magnets for medical errors. The issue of fatigue contributes to high burn out and suicide rates among doctors.

Health care providers perform many services that are not billable. Many of these services are essential to the patient and consume much time. Services such as communication and coördination with other providers involved in that patient’s care.

Reviewing old records, lab tests, research, and X-rays are not billable. Even the refill of medications, or advocating for patients with insurance companies, are not reimbursable, despite their necessity and the fact that these are done daily. Often several times throughout the day.

Unlike lawyers, doctors do not bill on an hourly rate. They are compensated for the time spent directly face-to-face in patient care. That underestimates the numbers of hours physicians and nurses spend caring for their patients. Lawyers bill to have their paralegal listen to your phone message or read a client’s note, unlike physicians.

Finding coverage for sick healthcare providers is difficult and often results in the rescheduling of patients.  That means fitting patients in already booked and hectic physician schedules. Other contributors to medical errors include lack of communication and access to information. Another is incompetence, plus poorly supervised residents and interns performing the work of senior doctors.

Many reprimanded physicians continue to practice. 20% of physicians commit eighty percent of malpractice, and adverse or sentinel events. 80/20. Only a fraction ever lose their license, and if they do, they just go next door and get a license in another State.

Medical personnel treated as superhumans are expected to go without sleep plus care for patients with complex medical problems. Medical errors are the result of this. This finding is no surprise, and nothing new since the publication of ‘First Do No Harm.’

A medical team is responsible for your care. An error by one person can cause catastrophic problems.

Lack of communication and lack of access to information are two. And lack of coordination makes three elements that contribute significantly to medical errors.

Errors will always occur, of course, but they are much more likely when one is tired, and the mechanisms in place to intercept errors are not working.

Again unlike lawyers, doctors are not paid to call patients or to do research on patient problems. That needs to change.  We need to stop discounting the time doctors spend doing non-direct care.  Doctors should be compensated for all work involving patient care.

Just changes in the above will go a long way toward reducing medical error.

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