13 August 2009

One more set of recommendations

... and then next week I'll be back to analyzing the medical literature: A stack of interesting new journal articles is threatening to topple and bury my computer.

For the moment, though:

First, the Hearst newspapers chain has conducted a nationwide investigation into medical errors that should be required reading for anyone who wonders why hospitals can't do a better job controlling hospital-acquired infections. It is a 7-part series focusing on the 5 states (New York, Texas, California, Connecticut, Washington) where there are Hearst papers, and hosted on the site of the San Francisco Chronicle. The introductory article says:
Ten years ago, a highly publicized federal report called the death toll shocking and challenged the medical community to cut it in half — within five years.
Instead, federal analysts believe the rate of medical error is actually increasing.
A national investigation by Hearst Newspapers found that the medical community, the federal government and most states have overwhelmingly failed to take the effective steps outlined in the report a decade ago.
... in five states served by Hearst newspapers — New York, California, Texas, Washington and Connecticut — only 20 percent of some 1,434 hospitals surveyed are participating in two national safety campaigns begun in recent years.
Also, a detailed safety analysis prepared for Hearst Newspapers examined discharge records from 1,832 medical facilities in four of those states. It found major deficiencies in patient data states collect from hospitals, yet still found that a minimum of 16 percent of hospitals had at least one death from common procedures gone awry — and some had more than a dozen. (Byline: Cathleen F. Crowley and Eric Nalder)
From that opening statement, the investigation goes on to explore many patient stories that individually are tragedies and collectively — as we here know all to well — are a scandal.

There is just one notable MRSA story in the mix, the death of a retired hospital president who contracted the bug in his own hospital. But they are all worth reading.

Second, an executive and apparently new writer named David Goldhill has written for The Atlantic a passionate and well-thought out piece on his father's death from a hospital-acquired infection and on what needs to change for such deaths to never happen again. "My survivor’s grief has taken the form of an obsession with our health-care system," he writes:
My dad became a statistic—merely one of the roughly 100,000 Americans whose deaths are caused or influenced by infections picked up in hospitals. One hundred thousand deaths: more than double the number of people killed in car crashes, five times the number killed in homicides, 20 times the total number of our armed forces killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another victim in a building American tragedy.
You may not agree with his conclusions, but it is worth reading through to the end to experience how one intelligent citizen from outside health care understands and attempts to re-think our broken system.

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