Well­ness Arti­cles

A Med­ical Enron

A scathing arti­cle appeared in the Decem­ber 9, 2002 issue of the Wash­ing­ton Post, that com­pared the mis­man­age­ment and melt­down of Enron, to the med­ical profession’s inabil­ity in reduc­ing the rate of med­ical errors in hos­pi­tals. These errors, accord­ing to an Insti­tute of Med­i­cine study three years ago, kill between 44,000 and 98,000 patients annu­ally while injur­ing per­haps 1 mil­lion more.

The arti­cle states that reforms are “scan­dalously slow” and that ask­ing the med­ical pro­fes­sion to reg­u­late them­selves has been inef­fec­tive. The arti­cle states that the sources of errors are var­i­ous includ­ing, mix­ing up patients’ X-​rays, or look­ing at them upside-​down; as a result, they oper­ate on the wrong patient or the wrong body part. Addi­tion­ally, clean­li­ness was an issue as doc­tors and health work­ers fail to fol­low basic hygiene pro­ce­dures such as wash­ing hands or chang­ing gloves there­fore caus­ing infec­tions that account for thou­sands of deaths a year.

Wrong pre­scrip­tions are also one of the biggest prob­lems lead­ing to injury or death. Yet nation­ally only about 3 per­cent of hos­pi­tals have insti­tuted com­put­er­ized pre­scrip­tion sys­tems, which would greatly reduce these types of errors. The arti­cle noted that there is a national sys­tem for report­ing med­ical errors, but it is vol­un­tary, so few errors ever get reported. A few states have manda­tory sys­tems, but most still do not.

The one place that the arti­cle did say had embraced changes and reduced risk sig­nif­i­cantly was the gov­ern­ment run Vet­er­ans hos­pi­tals. The arti­cle con­cluded with com­ments and rec­om­men­da­tions that included some degree of account­abil­ity and gov­ern­ment over­sight. They stated, “So long as patients have no way of find­ing out which hos­pi­tals are unre­li­able, bad hos­pi­tals will face min­i­mal incen­tives to invest in the solu­tions that could drive error rates down. State or fed­eral reg­u­la­tors should require the report­ing of errors and should make some of this infor­ma­tion pub­lic. Oth­er­wise thou­sands will con­tinue to die need­lessly and with no one held to account.”

Ran­dom Article

A report released in the Jan­u­ary 12, 2007 issue of the Mor­bid­ity and Mor­tal­ity Weekly Report pub­lished by the cen­tres for Dis­ease Control,

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