Many medical errors would be avoided with some simple changes in habit by healthcare workers, according to a 2013 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality sponsored an initiative to add recommendations for improving healthcare to their 2001 publication “Making Health Care Safer.” These new recommendations are meant to prevent surgical mishaps, infections, pressure sores, pulmonary embolism and errors due to miscommunication.
The recommendations include the following:
- Use surgical checklists
- Precautions to prevent central line-associated infection
- Reduce usage of urinary catheters
- Strategies to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia
- Wash your hands
- Avoid confusing abbreviations
- Assess patients regularly for bed sores
- Precautions to prevent nosocomial infections
- Place central lines with ultrasound guidance
- Precautions to prevent pulmonary embolism
When recommendations like these come out, it takes hospitals far too long to implement them. As an example, European hospitals have shown that exacting infection control measures virtually wipe out certain types of hospital acquired infections. However, during the same period, American hospitals experienced increasing rates of these same hospital acquired infections.
Why is this so? American hospitals are profit-oriented and will not adopt quality control measures without specific regulations or financial incentives to do so. So, rather than increasing nurse-to-patient ratios to safe levels which are shown to decrease hospital acquired infections, American hospitals are engaged in a long-term effort to reduce nursing staff. Moreover, American hospitals actually profit from many medical errors. For example, when a postop patient develops an infection, the resulting extended hospitalization can lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional billing.
Because of their political clout, physicians and hospitals have made it exceedingly difficult to prove medical malpractice claims in Ohio. Starting with a longstanding public relations campaign to turn the public against victims of medical negligence under the guise of “tort reform,” Big Medicine has effectively poisoned jurors’ minds. In addition, they finance politicians who create laws that cap damages, increase the burden of proof, hide key evidence behind the peer review privilege, and incentivize the use of electronic medical records to replace an accurate paper trail, among other anti-consumer measures. Thus, despite efforts to improve care like we see in the Annals of Internal Medicine article, medical malpractice will remain a major public health crisis.