I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about how hospitals are owning up to their errors. I think this is great because studies show that the big malpractice suits come not because of the malpractice, but because the physician/hospital didn’t acknowledge the wrong nor did they apologize…I guess they’re making progress.
The statistic in the article that was staggering was that “Medical errors kill as many as 98,000 Americans each year, according to the Institute of Medicine, a government advisory group.” That’s a big number, one that we really need to be conscious of each and every time we go to the doctor, get a new prescription, have a procedure done, or most of all enter the hospital.
The problem is that we’ve been indoctrinated not to ask questions. New drug dispensing systems like bar codes that have to match the drug container with the wrist band on the patient are important steps in saving lives, but it isn’t enough. We need ongoing training to be ramped up. There are states in the country that don’t require continuing education for healthcare professionals. The only reason most of them do take continuing education is that is lowers their malpractice insurance.
It’s critical that patients and caregivers become savvy about the medical profession. Books such as Jerome Groopman’s, How Doctor’s Think should be the first book that people go buy following a diagnosis. In fact I believe the newly diagnosed person should drive (after the shock wears off) from the doctors office to their favorite bookstore to buy that book. We have to begin to understand how doctor’s think so we can ask better questions, challenge them when necessary, and keep them accountable.
Do yourself a favor, become informed, keep a watchful eye for omissions and errors like anything related to sanitation issues, and most of all have a voice. Be empowered to ask questions because the last thing anyone wants is to be one of the 98,000 Americans who die annually from medical errors. You have a part to play in this equation.