Shocking facts about medical care

Approximately one-quarter of all medications and medical procedures may not be necessary, according to a new survey of leaders in American medicine.

by Dr. Marty Makary — 

A new generation of doctors is pushing the medical profession to make hospital outcomes more positive for the public and to make bedside care more honest. Following are a few shocking facts about health care in the U.S. today.

  • In a confidential survey at a wide range of hospitals, staffers were asked, “Would you feel comfortable having your own care performed at this hospital?” At nearly one-third of the institutions surveyed, fewer than 50 percent of employees said they would feel safe as patients.
  • U.S. surgeons operate on the wrong patient or body part as often as 40 times a week.
  • When addressing an auditorium of physicians, Dr. Lucien Leape of Harvard Medical School asks, “Raise your hand if you know of a doctor where you work who should not be practicing medicine because he is unsafe.” Wherever he lectures, every hand in the room goes up.
  • In the U.S., the fifth-leading cause of death is due to preventable medical errors, and the number of patients killed is the equivalent of four passenger-loaded jumbo jets crashing each week.
  • Some of America’s prestigious teaching hospitals score worse on my safety-culture survey than humble community medical centers.
  • When New York State required hospitals to publish their mortality rates for heart bypass surgery, death rates declined by 83 percent in six years. But no other states have followed suit.
  • Doctors who are disciplined, suspended or sued for malpractice in one state can move to another state and resume practicing. In a 10-year period, out of 11,000 doctors who were disciplined by their hospitals, more than half were not reported to state medical boards.
  • Approximately one-quarter of all medications and medical procedures may not be necessary, according to a new survey of leaders in American medicine.

 

Marty Makary, M.D., is a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital and an associate professor of health policy at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. He led the effort of the World Health Organization to develop ways of measuring health care quality and helped pioneer the life-saving surgical checklist. He is the author of Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care. www.transparenthealthcare.org.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 32, Number 1, February/March 2013.

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