medical errors

Harm to patients lessens, but there's a long way to go

People are harmed in the hospital when they fall trying to get out of bed and sustain a head injury or broken hip, pick up new infections that may be very difficult to recover from, are given the wrong drug and it creates a serious problem, and so forth.

Patients often lack a framework for thinking about health care

In the summer after I finished first grade, my family moved to a house located about an hour's drive from our last one. I had learned to read that year, and over the summer I polished off the entire Bobbsey Twins series, the entire Hardy Boys series, and so forth. The first day of school, I was excited to find out what they would teach us now.

Rude, dismissive doctors put patients at risk

In my books about healthcare (including one to be published this summer, "When Health Care Hurts"), I always conclude by talking about the future of healthcare. What will be different? What will lead to change? One theme remains constant: For serious change to occur, patients must be treated with more respect than they are today.

Assumptions about motives regarding tragic mistakes may be wrong

Last week's column pointed out that harm caused by some organizations gets a lot more attention and outrage than does harm caused by healthcare. For example, 13 people died over the course of a decade because General Motors allegedly failed to redesign and replace a defective part in its cars. Yet, millions died over the same decade from preventable infections and blood clots they got in the hospital, medical errors, drug side effects and other complications of care. Which one got a congressional investigation, fines and massive press coverage?

Where's the outrage for deaths caused by health care?

Consider what happens when deaths or injuries result from a problem with a mine, a ferry, a train, an airplane, a cruise ship, an oilrig or an automobile. For example, a Malaysian airliner disappearance in March 2014, with 239 presumed dead, got so much attention that a Google search on this topic yielded 143 million hits. A Metro-North train crash in December 2013 that left four dead resulted in an immediate investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. Mine incidents leading to a handful of deaths are investigated by both state and federal mine safety organizations.

Speak up when medical orders seem to conflict

Sally moved to the short-term rehab wing of a skilled nursing facility after she got out of the hospital for treatment of a badly broken leg. She reported, "My doctor had told me clearly to stay off that leg. But they kept taking me to PT. They kept making me try to walk and do exercises. Finally, I said to them, 'You need to make an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon and take me to his office for an evaluation, because this isn't working. You can't keep trying to force me to do something that he's told me he doesn't want me to do."

It's up to you to ensure you get the right care

After a home healthcare nurse alerted Joan's doctor to a problem with Joan's knee, Joan was rushed to the hospital. After she was evaluated, she was told that she had a MRSA-like infection in her lower leg, where she had already had a staph infection that required surgery and a broken bone from a fall in the shower.

Complications of care can often cascade

Joan landed in the hospital for the third time in two months after the latest in a series of complications following what had been expected to be a simple medical procedure. This time, her leg had broken in a fall at home as an aide was assisting her in getting into the shower.

She reported, "The doctor was able to set it. He put on a brace, not a cast. He said if he put a cast on, it would weigh a hundred pounds and I'd never walk again," because it would add so much weight and make Joan so lopsided.

Give home care agency a list of medical history

After a successful stay at a rehabilitation hospital - the latest stop in a medical saga that had lasted nearly six weeks and had also involved two hospital visits as well as time in a skilled nursing facility - Joan was grateful to be back home. She had made a lot of progress, but she was still weak and needed help with both medical issues and non-medical ones such as bathing.

Risks abound when you get out of the hospital

How do you feel when you hear that a friend or relative is in the hospital? A little nervous? Hoping that everything goes well and that your loved one will soon be home? Those are understandable reactions.

And what do you think when you hear that they've been sent home? That they're out of the woods now - at least as far as any dangers associated with being hospitalized are concerned -- and you can stop worrying?

The facts suggest something different.

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