In Ohio, hospital negligence remains a common source of medical malpractice claims. AARP’s Bulletin recently published an article about the dangers of hospital admissions, entitled “Hospitals May Be the Worst Place to Stay When You’re Sick.” The article notes that little has changed since the Institute of Medicine published “To Err is Human” in 1999, which reported that over 100,000 Americans die from medical errors each year. In fact, the author concludes that “recent studies suggest a problem that is bigger and more complex….”
Interestingly, the article draws comparisons between the safety cultures of the airline industry and the hospital industry. Unlike hospitals, airlines instituted a number of safety practices, including the use of detailed checklists, to reduce errors to a nominal number. Healthcare advocates often draw another analogy to the airline industry: the death rate from medical errors is roughly the equivalent of one passenger jet crashing every single day. If the airline industry suffered a major plane crash every day, no one would fly. However, unlike airline travelers, vulnerable patients usually have no choice but to face the dangers of hospitalization when the need arises.
Hospitals, unlike the airline industry, have long hid behind various legislative smokescreens to cover their dangerous practices from public view. For example, in Ohio, internal investigations are protected by the so-called “peer-review privilege.” Doctors claim that they must operate under the cloak of secrecy or else their kind will not be open and honest about mistakes during these internal investigations. That does not say much about the integrity of physicians. Further, no other industry requires secrecy to improve its safety record. In fact, as the statistics showing worsening error rates reflect, this hide-the-mistake system does not work.
Real change will not occur until medical error rates are publicly reported and monitored, so that patients can “vote with their feet” by staying away from hospitals with high error rates. Hospitals and doctors have not proven themselves trustworthy to handle things in-house, away from the public’s view. Transparency is needed. Hospital care should not be the equivalent of Russian roulette, where many patients wind up worse off after the hospitalization than before. Hospital negligence will only decline when hospitals and physicians are held fully accountable and error rates are studied openly.
You can read the article here: http://www.aarp.org/health/doctors-hospitals/info-03-2012/protect-yourself-from-hospital-errors.html.