Going to the doctor may be deadly for your health!
Recently published findings show medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the USA.
Rising medical errors are symptomatic of our ageing community. A culture where health care providers are chronically overworked and understaffed. A culture where working while ill is a sign of strength, responsibility and dedication. A culture where most of the work done for patients is not reimbursable.
Such is the culture of health care that contributes to medical error despite advances in technology and knowledge.
In 2013 medical errors caused 440,000 deaths in the USA: [ http://www.hospitalsafetyscore.org/newsroom/display/hospitalerrors-thirdleading-causeofdeathinus-improvementstooslow ] Medical error, defined as [ https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_error ], appears to be on the rise.
In 1999, the publication ‘First Do No Harm’ [ https://www.healthdesign.org/chd/research/first-do-no-harm ] did much 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 problem of fatigue contributes to high burn out and suicide rates among doctors: [ http://www.thehappymd.com/blog/physician-burnout-rates-top-50-percent-in-usa / http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24448053 / http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/838437 ]
Also, with the billing for services rendered, health care providers perform many services that are not renumerated. Many of these services are essential to the patient and require much time. Services such as communication with other providers involved in that patient’s care.
Reviewing of old records, lab tests and X-rays are not billable. Even the refill of medications, or advocating for patients to insurance companies, are not reimbursing, 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 only for the time spent directly face-to-face in patient care. This underestimates the numbers of hours physicians and nurses spend caring for their patients.
Finding coverage for sick healthcare providers is difficult and often results in 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 in practice. Eighty percent of malpractice, and adverse or sentinel events, are committed by 20% of physicians. 80/20. Yet only a fraction ever lose their license, and if they do, they simply go next door.
Medical personnel are treated as super humans, expected to go without sleep plus care for patients with complex medical problems. Medical errors are the end 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 greatly to medical errors.
Errors will always occur, of course, but they will be much more likely when one is tired and there are no mechanisms in place to intercept errors.
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 done caring.
Just changes in the above will go a long way in reducing medical error.
To close, a very sad read of six physicians who felt so overwhelmed they took their own lives: