Articles Posted in Medical Error

precise-223x300Although billions of dollars and lots of positive public attention have been lavished on the promise of genetic-based “precision medicine,” this therapeutic approach to treating cancer and other serious diseases may need more scrutiny for basics of quality control.

National Public Radio deserves credit for airing some less-heard experts’ worries about the roles of at least two groups of little-seen and often-ignored medical specialists — pathologists and med techs — and how their common practices may undercut the potential of efforts to target disease treatments to individual patients based on maps of their genes.

Despite its powerful and progress-promising name, precision medicine relies on some old-fashioned, unchanged, and possibly problematic medical techniques, experts told NPR. Blood and tissue samples, which later will be analyzed with costly and supposedly state-of-the-art equipment, still get taken by med techs with limited training. Little attention typically gets paid to how they collect samples and how carefully they get handled before arriving in labs. They may sit on carts for hours, and they may be dragged through different parts of hospitals where temperatures vary widely and can hit extremes.

alive-300x115Nick Tullier once was a handsome, strapping sheriff’s deputy in Baton Rouge, La. Then, in a blink, he and five others were gunned down by a former Marine and black separatist who had come from Missouri to Louisiana to kill cops. Tullier was one of three deputies who survived the attack.

What happened next to him is part of a series worth reading in the Houston Chronicle, a year-long dig the newspaper has dubbed “Alive Inside.” The work asks whether doctors and hospitals across the country have stayed current with medical advances that maybe, just might, possibly offer greater glimmers of hope to patients like Tullier who suffer traumatic brain injuries.

Such individuals, the Chronicle carefully says, may too quickly be deemed too injured to survive. Doctors, in sincere acts of perceived compassion, may be too fast to urge family and loved ones to withhold or halt medical services for the brain-injured, partly out of the pragmatic reality that their recovery prospects remain poor.

When the private equity firms move into skin cancer treatment, you know the story is not going to end well for patients. Think lots of treatments, but hit or miss on protecting you from serious cancers.

There’s a simple self-protection solution for the many boomers – like me – who need to get skin lesions regularly looked at by the skin doctor.

Just ask this question whenever you meet a new practitioner who proposes to examine your skin and cut or freeze off the growths there: What is the degree behind your name?

bowser-240x300Even as District of Columbia officials struggle with deepening woes at the United Medical Center (UMC), advocates from a national, independent, and nonprofit group have offered a dim review of hospitals in the DC area.

The bad news keeps piling on at UMC, a leading provider of medical care for communities of color in the District’s Southeast area and in Prince George’s County, Md.

To its credit, the sometimes locally slumbering Washington Post has put out a disturbing, well-documented report about the death of a 47-year-old HIV-AIDS patient in UMC’s nursing home care. As others witnessing the scene clamored for them to help, UMC nurses, the Post says, let the patient fall to the floor, where he sprawled in his own waste for 20 minutes while his caregivers argued with a security guard. When the patient finally was returned to his bed, he was dead.

mapsample-159x300MapOverview-300x205Patrick Malone & Associates has a new tool for patients to easily check out how their hospital stacks up on quality and safety measures.

The tool is on our website here, and covers all hospitals in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, including northern Virginia, the Maryland suburbs of DC and the District of Columbia itself.

When you click on the link, you will see a map of the DC area with hospital locations pinned.  Click on any hospital, and a small window will open up giving you an array of stats. Each statistic has an arrow next to it–  up for “better than average” and down for “worse than average.  Our site features these quality measures:

umcDoctors and hospitals across the country push the frontiers of medical science every day, finding new ways to improve health care and to change and save lives. But at the same time, some of medicine’s basics—like delivering babies safely and protecting mothers’ well being—also keep getting botched, especially for poor and black women. It’s a national disgrace, and it’s on sad, terrible display in the growing scandal in Southeast Washington’s only full-service hospital, which recently was ordered to stop delivering babies.

Why? The Washington Post, which has done some good digging and needs to do more, says that health regulators for the District of Columbia have provided sketchy details to officials of United Medical Center, which serves the poor and predominantly African American residents of the neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River, as to why the public hospital’s obstetrics unit was shut down for 90 days.

The paper says United’s staff failed to properly care for a newborn to ensure the infant didn’t acquire HIV from the baby’s mother, who was infected and had a high viral load. The hospital didn’t test the baby properly for HIV, failed to deliver the child via cesarean to reduce the chances of HIV infection, and didn’t administer a recommended antiretroviral drug as a postpartum precaution.

records-300x200Although patients can protect their own health by getting copies of their medical records, few consumers get them, and fewer still take advantage of the federal government’s push to make records easily  available electronically, one of Uncle Sam’s big public protection agencies reports.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office also warns that tumult in the nation’s health care system, notably in Congress’ roller-coaster deliberations to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, may disrupt patients’ relationships with caregivers. That makes it even more vital for consumers to have their health records.

The Association of Health Care Journalists deserves a tip of the cap for pointing to the GAO blog, where experts note that the ACA had supported a national push to get doctors and hospitals to adopt electronic health records with the aim of providing patients and caregivers more access and transparency about these crucial materials.

anesthesia-300x153Some of the very medical specialists who are supposed to put patients to sleep experience big problems themselves staying awake, with more than half of anesthetic trainees reporting in a new national survey in Britain that they had crashed their cars or nearly done so while headed home after long night shifts.

American doctors’ social media responses to this new research indicate that work weariness and drowsy driving are perils for practitioners on this side of the Atlantic, too.

The doctors’ complaints also underscores the irrationality of recent decisions by American medical educators to reinstate long shifts for interns and residents, trainees who play important—and sleep-deprived— front-line roles in providing medical services to too many patients in academic medical centers and hospitals nationwide.

kessler-203x300Even as congressional Republicans advance their counter-factual campaign to strip patients who have been harmed while seeking medical services of their rights to seek legal redress, another state appeals court has rejected key GOP arguments about medical malpractice lawsuits.

An appellate court in Wisconsin has declared unconstitutional that state’s $750,000 cap on non-economic damages, reinstating a jury’s decision that a Milwaukee woman and her husband should be paid $16.5 million for their pain and suffering after emergency doctors failed to inform her fully about the severity of a strep infection she had and that led to the amputation of her arms and legs.

The jury assessed total damages against the doctors and their insurers of $25.3 million, including $8 million for the medical and other care the 57-year-old mother of four will require for the rest of her life. But the defendants appealed the total, arguing the couple, under Wisconsin law, should get no more than $750,000 for non-economic harms like pain and suffering.

dna-208x300Pathologists are the medical specialists whom few patients ever meet, but they play increasingly important roles in treatment decisions. Some new reports raise concerns about systematic errors in the path lab.

The New York Times painted a surprisingly distanced picture of the work of pathologists in a recent report on these medical doctors who are trained to interpret an array of laboratory tests and often microscopic materials to determine the care for complex diseases.

The paper found that the specialists and their labs mislabeled and mixed up patient samples and results, as well as sometimes contaminating them—yes, rarely, but with potentially significant harms. Erroneous results could lead to misdiagnoses, resulting in patients getting wrong or ineffective treatment, especially for cancers, experts say.

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