Medical Errors In Utah
Kirsten Stewart at the Salt Lake Tribune has published an important front page article about medical errors in Utah (http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/54387604-78/utah-infections-health-med...). Excerpts:
Hospitals have had to report these "provider-preventable conditions" to the Utah Department of Health since July 2011, a requirement of federal health reform. They’ve disclosed 17 to date, most of them infections.
"This is a very new data collection process and not everybody has been reporting. It’s a work-in-process kind of thing," said Rod Betit, executive director of the Utah Hospital Association. "We had to agree upon which events to report, and how to define them. We need to have a baseline before releasing information showing what progress is being made, or not being made, at various facilities."
Reporting is quasi-mandatory. Providers caught shirking the requirement might no longer be paid for treating Medicaid patients, but would suffer no other penalties. The same rules apply to providers who take Medicare.
‘Why are we not paying attention?’ » It has been more than a decade since a panel of top scientists set a national goal of improving hospital safety. Yet medical harms remain a leading cause of death.
Hospital-acquired infections alone kill 90,000 people a year in the U.S. They increase the length of hospital stays and cost $6 billion annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
"If you took that rate of injury and superimposed it on the American airline industry, you’d have a fully loaded plane going down, killing everyone aboard, every week," said Joe Jarvis, a semi-retired Utah doctor and long-time advocate for mandatory reporting. "Why are we not paying attention to this?"
Until that information is publicly available, a hospital could be having a problem with infections and no one would ever know, Jarvis said. "I think Utah is better than most states given the quality of care here. But I have no data to prove that."
We do not have a high quality health care system. We have a poor quality health care system where our patients are not even safe. Utah is better than other states, but that makes us only, as Dr. Brent James says, the cream of the crap. Let's stop fuming about stupid ideological problems like 'death panels' and 'socialized medicine' and instead focus on improving the quality of care delivered to the American patient. We can save hundreds of billions of dollars in wasted health care spending each year through quality improvement. Patient safety should be carefully supervised by the public health agencies across this nation, just as are food and water safety.
Dr. Joe Jarvis