A recent study led to a frightening statistic: one in seven Medicare patients are harmed during their hospital visit. The government study caused the new chief of Medicare to demand steps for improvement, as reported by the Associated Press in a recent Wall Street Journal article. In addition, it was found that 15,000 patients each month undergo a complication that leads to death.
Calls for change are certainly needed. According to the article, "a new Medicare ‘innovation center’ [was unveiled] Tuesday [and was] designed to develop and test ways to improve quality of care and lower health care costs for everyone, not just Medicare recipients. The program is one of several established by the new health care law to help Medicare spur improvements in patient safety."
One issue the center is attempting to address is improving coordination of care amongst multiple health care providers. Often, the currently fragmented system leaves one physician unaware of what another doctor tested for or treated, resulting in holes in the patient’s treatment. Experts say that bettering primary care is important because then fewer patients will end up in the hospital.
It has been known for quite some time that hospitals can be dangerous, filled with disease and opportunities for error. "The Institute of Medicine a decade ago warned that up to 98,000 people a year die from medical mistakes alone." In 2008, Medicare launched an initiative to attempt to decrease mistakes in hospitals by refusing to fund treatment that resulted from a preventable error.
Although medical care will always be imperfect due to human error and other unpredictable factors, attempts to improve the system are welcome and needed. It is important to conduct studies that identify weaknesses and implement programs for improvement. Additionally, it is also vital to evaluate programs to determine their effectiveness and terminate those that do not create change. Such methods allow for the most efficient and productive system possible.
These stories offer further evidence against imposing limitations on our tort system, which allows a patient negligently harmed during medical treatment to seek redress through the court system. Without the court system, many people would have no ability to balance the harm done them.