April 19, 2014

Report: Medicare Harms 134,000 and Kills 15,000 Every Month

Exhausted Doctor Report: Medicare Harms 134,000 and Kills 15,000 Every Month

Health Impact News Editor Comments: In this report by Marshall Allen of ProPublica, strong evidence is given to show that the vast majority of medical errors go unreported in the United States. Citing the government’s own data from the Department of Health and Human Services, we learn that medical errors among Medicare beneficiaries alone probably account for 134,000 injuries and 15,000 deaths every month. That would make Medicare the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to government data from the CDC. Is there any doubt any longer that the entire medical system in the United States is now easily the #1 cause of death??

Why Patients Don’t Report Medical Errors

by Marshall Allen
ProPublica

I was recently browsing through the nearly 200 stories we’ve compiled with our Patient Harm Questionnaire, when I was reminded again of a troubling truth. Many of the people who suffer harm while undergoing medical care do not file formal complaints with regulators. The reasons are numerous: They’re often traumatized, disabled, unaware they’ve been a victim of a medical error or  don’t understand the bureaucracy.

That’s a problem for those individual patients and for the rest of us. There are many places to complain: a state licensing agency; a professional licensing board that monitorsdoctors or nurses; the Joint Commission, which accredits hospitals or a Medicare Quality Improvement Organization. But if there are no complaints, there are no independent investigations, and that means no outside accountability for providers who may have made mistakes, and no public inspection reports that documents the case — assuming an agency makes reports public, which is not always the case. It’s a collective problem because patient safety flaws that remain hidden, if they are not corrected, may be repeated.

We have staggering estimates of the number of people harmed while undergoing medical treatment. A review of medical records by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s inspector general found that in a single month one in seven Medicare patients was harmed in the hospital, or roughly 134,000 people. “An estimated 1.5 percent of Medicare beneficiaries experienced an event that contributed to their deaths,” the IG found, “which projects to 15,000 patients in a single month.”

But there’s no central system in place to tally and track these events. There’s no way to know when and where patients are being harmed or to tell if the problem is worse in one place than another.

It’s not like keeping track of patient harm is a new idea. More than a decade ago the Institute of Medicine’s landmark “To Err Is Human” report called for a national system to capture cases of serious harm to patients or death. The report said accurate reporting provides accountability and knowledge that leads to learning. That’s information that could save lives.

“You really can’t improve what you don’t measure,” said Dr. Julia Hallisy, president of the Empowered Patient Coalition. “How do you know where to focus your improvement efforts if you haven’t measured what’s happening in the first place?”

Efforts at the state level appear to be falling short, according to federal inspectors. In many states, hospital are required by law to file a report every time a patient suffers unexpected harm — often called  “sentinel” or “adverse” events. But a July report by the HHS inspector general’s office found that only 12 percent of harmful events identified by the office even met state requirements for reporting them. Compounding the problem: Hospitals themselves only reported 1 percent of the harmful events.

We found something similar when I was a reporter in Las Vegas. We used hospital billing records to identify 3,689 cases of patient harm at the city’s hospitals in a two-year period. Each of those cases would fit the state’s definition of a “sentinel event,” meaning the hospitals were required by law to report them. Yet in the same time period they reported to the state only 402 sentinel events.

The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is now accepting public comment about a proposed program to encourage consumers to complain about harm suffered while undergoing medical care. The goals include collecting information in a common format, developing prototype methods for gathering information on the phone and Internet and creating a follow-up questionnaire for medical providers. Patients will be asked what happened, who was involved and for permission to follow up with the providers involved in the event.

I recently referred the 1,000 members of the ProPublica Patient Harm Facebook Group to a story about the proposal in The New York Times. Many members of the group have suffered harm firsthand and filed complaints, so the article created lively discussion:

  • Robin Karr said that based on her experience, she’s skeptical about reporting harm directly to the government “but not without hope” about the proposed program.
  • Debra Van Putten said she knows many people who have filed complaints about harm they suffered, but little came of their efforts. Patients want more than mere acknowledgement, she said. They want accountability for whoever is responsible.
  • Martha Deed said there are so many barriers to a patient reporting harm — emotional trauma and physical disabilities, feeling intimidated by providers, social pressure not to complain — that a passive questionnaire is unlikely to elicit responses. Instead, the patient harm information should be gathered in a way that’s standardized, she said, like the national survey that’s administered to recently discharged hospital patients that has results publicly reported on Hospital Compare.

That’s food for thought for those developing the program.

We’d also love to hear your comments. How do those of you who work in the medical field feel about this type of reporting system? Patients, what do you think about it? And what would you recommend as characteristics that would be essential to such a program?

Read the Full article and Comment here: http://www.propublica.org/article/why-patients-dont-report-medical-errors


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U.S Congressman: CDC Can’t be Trusted Regarding Vaccine Safety

U.S Congressman: CDC Can’t be Trusted Regarding Vaccine Safety

Congressman Bill Posey’s strong resolve and demands for transparency were evident as he discussed the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s handling of vaccine safety studies which affect “our most precious resource in our nation – our children.” The 30-minute interview, conducted by vaccine industry watchdog, PhD biochemist Brian Hooker, delves into what Posey called “the incestuous relationship between the public health community and the vaccine makers and public officials.”

The Florida legislator, known as “Mr. Accountabililty,” did not mince words when criticizing current and past CDC officials including indicted fraudster Dr. Poul Thorsen; CDC director turned Merck Vaccine President Dr. Julie Gerberding; and the agency’s current spokesperson regarding autism and vaccines, Dr. Coleen Boyle.

Congressman Posey said, “The CDC can’t be trusted regarding investigating vaccine safety. Huge conflict of interest. I think the CDC should be investigated.”

Merck’s Former Doctor Predicts that Gardasil will Become the Greatest Medical Scandal of All Time

Merck’s Former Doctor Predicts that Gardasil will Become the Greatest Medical Scandal of All Time

In an interview with Dr. Bernard Dalbergue, a former pharmaceutical industry physician with Gardasil manufacturer Merck, he predicts that Gardasil will become the greatest medical scandal of all time. Dr. Dalbergue believes that at some point in time, the evidence will add up to prove that this vaccine, technical and scientific feat that it may be, has absolutely no effect on cervical cancer and that all the very many adverse effects which destroy lives and even kill young girls, serves no other purpose than to generate profit for the manufacturers.

Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime: How big pharma has corrupted healthcare

Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime: How big pharma has corrupted healthcare

An important new book by a recognized medical research expert describes Big Pharma as akin to the Mafia. In an interview conducted by our colleagues at ANH-Europe, Dr. Peter C. Gøtzsche exposes the flaws of the drug approval system, our reliance on dangerous drugs, and the deadly co-dependence between regulators and industry. Dr. Gøtzsche is co-founder of the highly respected Cochrane Collaboration and Cochrane Reviews, a leading journal of evidence-based medicine. The interview is particularly timely now that the FDA has decided to remove restrictions on the dangerous drug Avandia.

Dr. Gøtzsche’s new book, Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare, points out that the pharmaceutical industry is allowed to test their own drugs, and thus effectively be their own judge. He calls this a threat to safe medicine and asks for open access to all research data, including raw data, because otherwise, data can be easily suppressed and conclusions manipulated by industry.

Medical Cannabis is a Threat to the Pharmaceutical Industry

Medical Cannabis is a Threat to the Pharmaceutical Industry

Medical marijuana, or cannabis, is legal in 20 US states, where it is used for a variety of medical conditions such as mood disorders, pain disorders, multiple sclerosis, and even cancer. Parents of children with epilepsy met at a news conference to share their dismay that Governor Mark Dayton refuses to legalize medical marijuana. About 85 percent to 95 percent of Americans are in favor of medical cannabis, and nearly 60 percent are in favor of legalizing marijuana. Cannabis shows outstanding promise as a medicinal plant, largely due to its cannabidiol (CBD) content. Cannabinoids interact with your body by way of naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors embedded in cell membranes throughout your body.

Leaders of Teaching Hospitals Have Close Ties to Drug Companies, Study Shows

Leaders of Teaching Hospitals Have Close Ties to Drug Companies, Study Shows

Pharmaceutical company payments to doctors extend far beyond rank-and-file clinicians — and deep into the leadership of America’s teaching hospitals, according to a study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center examined the boards of the 50 largest drug companies by global sales (excluding three companies that were not publicly traded). The researchers found that 40 percent — 19 companies — had at least one board member who also held a leadership role at an academic medical center. Sixteen of the 17 companies based in the United States had at least one. Several had more than one. All told, the research team found that 41 of the companies’ 2012 board members held leadership positions at academic medical centers. Six of the 41 were pharmaceutical company executives who served on hospital boards of directors or held other leadership posts.

The authors wrote that when academic medical leaders serve on pharmaceutical company boards, it can lead to conflicts not only for individuals, but for the critically important health care institutions they guide.

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