Hospitals: can't live without 'em . . .
. . . but maybe can't live with 'em.
If costly hospital stays, inconvenience, and potentially serious health problems aren't enough to turn you into a more conscientious (and paranoid) patient, consider this: Hospital-acquired infections kill 31,000 patients every year.
A new generation of doctors has been developing fair and simple ways to measure how well patients do at individual hospitals. In hospital-speak, we call the information “sensitive data”—data that would tell you which hospitals have much worse outcomes than others.
It’s the kind of data that, if you had access to it, would help you know just where to find the best care. But you don’t. And that is precisely the problem with the entire system: because a hospital’s outcomes are hidden from the public, neither consumers nor payers have any way of measuring whether the medicine they provide is good, adequate, or even safe. Much as the financial crisis was incubated when bank executives turned a blind eye to the ugly details about their mortgage-backed securities, so too does medicine’s lack of accountability create an institutional culture that results in overtreatment, increased risk, and runaway costs.
The unexpectedly high frequency of deadly misdiagnosis in hospital intensive care units or ICUs was "surprising and alarming," said Dr. Bradford Winters, the lead author of the study. After a systemic analysis of 31 different studies in the medical literature from 1966 to 2011 involving autopsy-confirmed diagnostic errors in adult ICU patients, the Hopkins researchers calculated that more than one in four patients -- 28 percent -- had a missed diagnosis at the time of their death. In about 8 percent of patients, the misdiagnosis was serious enough to have caused or contributed to the patients' deaths, Winters said in an interview yesterday.
The Hopkins study found that misdiagnosis in ICU patients was as much as 50 percent more common than that in general hospital patients.
There are, however, some apparently simple actions than can help matters: "Simple measures cut infections caught in hospitals" and "Curbing killer bacteria isn't rocket science".