August 20, 2014

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

pin it button 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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Will India be First Country to Revoke Marketing Licenses for HPV Vaccines?

Will India be First Country to Revoke Marketing Licenses for HPV Vaccines?

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A petition currently before the Supreme Court of India alleges that the Drugs Controller of India issued licenses for Gardasil and Cervarix without adequate research on safety as directed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare.

Petition number 558/2012, filed by Kalpana Mehta, Nalini Bhanot and V. Rukmini Rao, seeks to resolve this and several other issues by asking the Supreme Court of India to rescind the licenses for marketing and administration of HPV vaccines, make provisions to identify and treat any girls left with chronic health problems and/or autoimmune disorders after their participation in HPV vaccine trials, blacklist the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), and allow no other foreign agencies to have a field presence in India.

Will India be the first country in the world to revoke the marketing licenses for Gardasil and Cervarix? Will the Supreme Court of India move to protect the health and welfare of their young citizens, or the interests of the HPV vaccine manufacturers? Will PATH and similar agencies be banned from operating in India?
Will the victims of adverse reactions to HPV vaccines be located and treated? We can only hope these questions will be answered when the final hearing will take place.

CDC Whistleblower: CDC Covered Up MMR Vaccine Link to Autism in African American Boys

CDC Whistleblower: CDC Covered Up MMR Vaccine Link to Autism in African American Boys

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A top research scientist working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) played a key role in helping Dr. Brian Hooker of the Focus Autism Foundation uncover data manipulation by the CDC that obscured a higher incidence of autism in African-American boys.

“We’ve missed ten years of research because the CDC is so paralyzed right now by anything related to autism. They’re not doing what they should be doing because they’re afraid to look for things that might be associated.” The whistleblower alleges criminal wrongdoing of his supervisors, and he expressed deep regret about his role in helping the CDC hide data.

The Cancer Industry is Too Prosperous to Allow a Cure

The Cancer Industry is Too Prosperous to Allow a Cure

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We have lost the war on cancer. At the beginning of the last century, one person in twenty would get cancer. In the 1940s it was one out of every sixteen people. In the 1970s it was one person out of ten. Today one person out of three gets cancer in the course of their life.

The cancer industry is probably the most prosperous business in the United States. In 2014, there will be an estimated 1,665,540 new cancer cases diagnosed and 585,720 cancer deaths in the US. $6 billion of tax-payer funds are cycled through various federal agencies for cancer research, such as the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The NCI states that the medical costs of cancer care are $125 billion, with a projected 39 percent increase to $173 billion by 2020.

The simple fact is that the cancer industry employs too many people and produces too much income to allow a cure to be found. All of the current research on cancer drugs is based on the premise that the cancer market will grow, not shrink.

John Thomas explains to us why the current cancer industry prospers while treating cancer, but cannot afford to cure it.

800,000 Die from Blindly Trusting Their Doctor’s Prescription for This Pre-Surgery Drug

800,000 Die from Blindly Trusting Their Doctor’s Prescription for This Pre-Surgery Drug

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Tylenol: The Killer Drug Your Children can Buy

Tylenol: The Killer Drug Your Children can Buy

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Is there any more doubt that acetaminophen (Tylenol) is the most dangerous over-the-counter drug ever allowed to be sold legally without a prescription? Consider the facts:

Acetaminophen kills almost 500 people a year due to acute liver failure.
Acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause for calls to Poison Control Centers – more than 100,000/year.
Acetaminophen accounts for more than 56,000 emergency room visits, 2,600 hospitalizations.
Acetaminophen poisoning causes nearly 50% of all acute liver failure in the United States.
Acetaminophen is linked to fatal skin reactions.
Acetaminophen causes a two-fold increased risk of blood cancer.
Acetaminophen can cause an increase in autism, attention deficit with hyperactivity, and asthma when used with vaccines.

And yet, any child can walk into a drug store or grocery store and buy it like candy. Alliance for Natural Health brings us the latest bad news on Tylenol:

A study just published in JAMA Pediatrics finds that Tylenol (acetaminophen) taken by women during their pregnancy may raise the risk of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) and similar disorders in their children up to 40%—with the risk increasing the more acetaminophen the mother takes.

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