“Medical Harm is probably one of the three leading causes of death.” – Dr. Peter Pronovost, M.D.
Most people associate hospitals with good things: physicians, nurses and staff that will ease their loved ones’ pain and help them on the road to recovery. What if, however, your hospital actually caused new problems and complications. A new Consumer Report rating based on a 2010 report from the Department of Health and Human Services has shown that infections, surgical mistakes and other medical harm contribue to the deaths of about 180,000 hospital patients in a year. This does not include the 1.4 million who are seriously injured by the hospital care. Shocked yet? Well what if we tell you that these statistics were only based on Medicare patients alone.
Hospitals have a duty of care that they must uphold to the highest level. They are dealing with sick patients with fighting immune systems that simply cannot afford to have such high risk surroundings around them at all times. Patients admit themselves into these hospitals that they believe will cure them, but in turn, they end up leaving sicker and with more complications then ever before. Rosemary Gibson, a patient-safety advocate and author, states that just in this decade, more than 2.25 million Americans will probably die from medical harm.
Although leading causes of death such as automobile accidents, plane crashes, and cancer are documented very closely, there is a lack of information and data concerning medical care in various hospitals around the nation. For the first time, Consumer Reports rated 1,159 hospitals in 44 states on their safety measures and the results were astounding. This study only included 18 % of U.S. hospitals because the data on patient harm is still not fully reported consistently nationwide. Hospitals rarely volunteer their safety information which leads to a vague picture nationwide on what needs to be done to make hospitals more safe.
Consumer Report focused on six categories to accurately rate each hospital: Readmissions, communications, CT scanning, complications, and mortality. This is based on the best data that they could find given that hospitals do not like publicizing what really happens behind the closed doors. What they found however were shocking statistics.
Some of the most well known hospitals had terrible safety scores. This includes our very own New York Hospitals like New York Presbyterian with a score of 32 out of 100, Mount Sinai Medical Center with a score of 30 out of 100, Harlem Hospital Center with a 20 out of a 100, and Kings County Hospital Center in Brooklyn, New York with a score of 24 out of 100. Our neighbors in New Jersey at Kimball Medical Center in Lakewood, N.J. didn’t fair too nicely either with a score of 24 out of 100. With New York being one of the most advanced and leading states in the nation, why is it that the hospitals in the ‘city that never sleeps’ seems to be sleeping when it comes to safety? Terrible things happen in almost every hospital, but the important thing to note, is that safety precautions can be taken so reckless mistakes don’t occur anymore.
The Consumer Reports have New Yorkers in an uproar. Mount Sinai in New York, a prestigious institution throughout the United States, seems to have significantly more complications and higher mortality than the average hospital. New York Presbyterian scores less than average on the rate of complications that occur throughout the patient’s stay. They also scored less than average on their ability to communicate with patients about their recovery and medications. This new report not only worries the patient but also the many doctors who recommend patients go to certain hospitals. They are just as confused about which hospitals provide the best care because the hospitals’ reputation does not seem to be upheld by these statistics.
Some hospitals have responded to this report by installing safety initiatives such as electronic prescribing to help prevent drug errors when prescribing medicine and checklists to help prevent infections. Although there has been some success with rates of central line bloodstream infections, which have dropped by 32% since 2008 (according to National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), there needs to be an overall initiative put into place at each hospital.
Although ‘hospitals haven’t given safety the attention it deserves’, states Dr. Peter Pronovost, the public now knows of the safety concerns and hospitals must now take an overall safety initiative if they do not want their institutions bankrupt.