July 28, 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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Thousands Sue for Damages Against Cholesterol Drugs as Big Pharma Defends Billion Dollar Industry

Thousands Sue for Damages Against Cholesterol Drugs as Big Pharma Defends Billion Dollar Industry

The $100 billion dollar cholesterol-lowering statin drug industry is under attack, as thousands of Americans are filing lawsuits against the manufacturers cholesterol-lowering drugs such as Lipitor. Research continues to confirm just how dangerous these drugs are, with yet another study published recently linking increased statin drug use to type 2 diabetes. Since the study was published by the American Diabetes Association, these known risks to cholesterol-lowering drugs can no longer be denied or defended, and the lawsuits are pouring in at a rapid pace. Most of the lawsuits at this point are from women who have suffered with diabetes as a result of taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, but lawsuits over breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, liver damage and others may soon follow now that it is generally known how dangerous these drugs are.

According to statistics supplied by various law firms, there were 464 claims filed against Lipitor as of April 15, 2014, which increased to 703 by May 15, and then to 846 by June 16. As of mid-July 2014 over 959 claims have been filed for damages due to Lipitor alone. There are also many claims currently filed against Crestor, the next nearest competitor to Lipitor, and undoubtedly other similar drugs now sold under generic labels. These lawsuits now number well over 1,000, and are increasing at a rapid pace. Yet, this news is largely blacked out of the mainstream media.

700 Lipitor and Diabetes Lawsuit Claims Filed Against Pfizer

700 Lipitor and Diabetes Lawsuit Claims Filed Against Pfizer

Before its patent expired, Lipitor was the best-selling drug of all time. Lipitor, the drug that artificially lowers cholesterol, outsold almost all other drugs combined during the height of its run, before the patent ran out allowing generics to enter the market. The FDA did not issue warnings about the dangerous side effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs until after Lipitor’s patent expired.

The information here comes from an attorney, as attorneys across the nation see the economic opportunities now to sue Pfizer for damage done to millions of peoples’ health.

Veterans Kick The Prescription Pill Habit, Against Doctors’ Orders

Veterans Kick The Prescription Pill Habit, Against Doctors’ Orders

1 in 3 veterans polled say they are on 10 different medications.

While there is concern about overmedicating and self-medicating — using alcohol or drugs without a doctor’s approval — there are also some veterans who are trying to do the opposite: They’re kicking the drugs, against doctor’s orders.

Legal Child Kidnapping: Has the U.S. Become one of the Most Dangerous Places in the World for Children to Live?

Legal Child Kidnapping: Has the U.S. Become one of the Most Dangerous Places in the World for Children to Live?

The right to legal counsel, your Miranda rights, and the right to a speedy jury trial are American rights protected by our Constitution. But not in family court, where a single judge can decide whether or not you are a fit parent. Child Protection Services (CPS) has more power today than the police, sheriff, or FBI, as they can come into your home and remove your child without a search warrant or court order.

Someone who doesn’t like you, for any reason, can make a phone call and provide an anonymous “tip” with the result of you losing your children. Doctors you disagree with can call CPS and have your child removed from your home with no search warrant or court order, by simply reporting you to CPS. This is in fact happening all across America to thousands of families. It is time to put a stop to this.

Study: Insulin May Actually Accelerate Death in Type 2 Diabetes

Study: Insulin May Actually Accelerate Death in Type 2 Diabetes

In the United States, nearly 80 million people, or one in four has some form of diabetes or pre-diabetes. What’s worse, both type 1 and type 2 diabetes among children and teens has also skyrocketed. The most recent data, reveals that, between 2001 and 2009, incidence of type 1 diabetes among children under the age of 19 rose by 21 percent. Incidence of type 2 diabetes among children aged 10-19 rose by 30 percent during that same timeframe!

Statistics such as these point to two very important facts. First, it tells us that diabetes cannot be primarily caused by genetics, and secondly, it literally screams that something we’re doing, consistently and en masse, is horribly wrong, and we need to address it. A study published in the June 30, 2014 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine concluded that insulin therapy in type 2 diabetic patients may indeed do more harm than good.

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