Is the Healthcare System Bad for Us?

Dead By Mistake? Would you believe that there’s a site/blog with this title, and that this site is posted on the site of the Hearst Publications? Are we that bad off?

In a most recent post, titled: Hospital Safety’s a Wilderness of Data, the article begins with:

“Every year approximately 200,000 American patients die preventable deaths as tools to make them safer go unused. Patients are in the dark about facilities’ safety records, yet only fragments of the government’s wealth of information is shared.”

And, what about medication errors and other failures of medicine and the medical system?

In an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Vol. 284, No 4, 26 July 2000, written by Dr. Barbara Starfield, MD, MPH, of the John Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, it was reported that:

“there are 2,000 deaths/year from unnecessary surgery; 7000 deaths/year from medication errors in hospitals; 20,000 deaths/year from other errors in hospitals; 80,000 deaths/year from infections in hospitals; 106,000 deaths/year from non-error, adverse effects of medications, totaling up to 225,000 deaths per year in the US from iatrogenic causes which ranks these deaths as the number 3 killer. Iatrogenic is a term used when a patient dies as a direct result of treatments by a physician, whether it is from misdiagnosis of the ailment or from adverse drug reactions used to treat the illness. (drug reactions are the most common cause).”

Almost scares me to death to think about ever going to the hospital, how about you?

In fact, the 225,000 deaths per year are a very small percentage of the total number of people who are treated within the United States hospital system; in 2008, there were over 123 million visits to emergency rooms, with just 18 million of those visits resulting in hospitalization. So, the actual number of errors per person, that is – the actual chance of having one of these severe incidents happen to you – is very low. Still, doesn’t it give you just a little bit of concern to know that when you enter the hospital, there’s a chance that you’ll end up worse off than when you entered??!?

What can WE DO to insure that we’re not just another statistic in the data of those who have been injured (or worse?!?) by the medical system?

We need to educate ourselves, and arm ourselves, not with the threat of legal action (because what really matters once we’ve been injured…or when we’re dead!) but with knowledge. We need to be savvy consumers in the arena of healthcare shopping!

The one word that describes how you can stay out of the tables of statistics is…knowledge! And, how do you get that knowledge? Two words, ask questions! Two more words, ask questions. Final words, ask questions! Seriously, I’ve worked with many very intelligent people, my “patients,” who said or did nothing when a doctor or nurse entered the room and informed them that they were going to be started on a new medication, or that they needed to have a procedure done.

Failing to ask questions isn’t (and is!) our fault. In many ways, we’ve been taught that all we need to do is to sit back and let the medical system take care of us. To the point of absurdity, we’ve even come to expect that we can do things like smoke cigarettes, or sit in the sun without protection, and then when we get lung or skin cancer, the healthcare system will take care of us.

Not any more! We need to ask questions, we need to be informed consumers about our healthcare and our treatments.

Here are the links to articles and discussions that have been posted on this site about how you can manage your care and remain more informed.

Managing Ourselves, Managing Our Care

Why Manage Your Care? Five Good Reasons

Managing Multiple Medications – Five Essential Steps


Please let me know what other resources you need. Drop me a line and ask me to post something if you can’t find it here. This site is dedicated to your care; let’s make it work together.

Do you have a story about your care that went bad? Or maybe about an experience that went really well? Please feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail. I’d love to learn from you and am sure that other readers have similar experiences. Thanks





0 Comment   |   Posted in blog November 05, 2013