Is Our Health Care System Safer Today than 10 Years Ago?
A new report from Consumers Union says too many patients are still dying every year from needless errors. The report makes a number of proposals for how reforms could be instituted to improve patient safety. A starting point will be to change the health reform debate in Washington from one of just access and money to one focusing on quality and safety.
Nearly 10 years ago, the Institute of Medicine estimated that nearly 100,000 people died each year from preventable medical error. Has there been any substantial improvement in the last decade? The Consumers Union report says the frustrating answer is “We don’t know” — because systems to methodically measure and report harm are still not widely in place.
What should consumers push for?
* A national system with mandatory reporting of all infections acquired in health care facilities and other harms from preventable errors.
* More widespread adoption by hospitals of computerized systems for ordering and dispensing drugs to cut medication errors.
Those are the key steps called for by the Consumers Union report. Here’s one more that I advocate in my new book, The Life You Save: Nine Steps to Finding the Best Medical Care — and Avoiding the Worst — a “single payer” system. How would having a government-paid health care system help with safety? For starters, it would allow much easier monitoring of quality and errors. Instead of cobbling together data from dozens of insurance companies about how patients did at a particular hospital, all the data would be centralized and could be easily analyzed and compared. That way, problems with care could be more easily identified before tragedies occur.