the cost of unintended consequences

according to a new study,
“…released yesterday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, provides graphic details on the woes befalling patients.

The data show that: one in nine adults contracts an infection while in hospital, ranging from pneumonia to SARS; one in nine patients receives the wrong medication, or the wrong dose; one in 20 women suffers severe tearing during childbirth; one in every 81 babies born vaginally suffers trauma, emerging with injuries such as a broken shoulder; one in every 299 patients receiving a blood transfusion will have a reaction; one in every 1,124 adults over the age of 65 suffers a broken hip during a hospital stay; one in every 6,667 surgery patients will have a foreign object left in his or her body after the procedure.

“Like nuclear energy and aerospace, health care is a complex environment where errors can maim and even kill,” said Jennifer Zelmer, vice-president of research and analysis at CIHI. She said about one-third of adverse events are preventable.”

while no universal healthcare system is perfect, Canada is pretty well known for making a genuine effort to provide adequate heathcare and improve upon the present system. as a result they are usually pretty forthright in admitting mistakes. so if this is what’s going on in Canada, i can’t help but wonder what’s going on here in the US.

my father was recently in the hospital. he woke up last sunday felling dizzy and disoriented. he spent the night in the hospital, a battery of tests were performed and the doctors found nothing substantial. the most likely culprit, they seemed to feel, was that perhaps he picked up a virus while visiting family in the hospital earlier in the week.

i realize that medical professionals aren’t gods, however in light of this study, there is obviously room for improvement. what i wonder though is the reason why so many dangerous mistakes can be made on such a massive scale? too much pressure? stress? do medical professionals need to have hours like pilots – they can only work so many hours per month. would this make a difference? can technology provide a system of checks and balances that will improve the situation, or will it simply complicate things further?

what about wireless medical facilities with drs and nurses having pdas which can access the medical records and charts of each of their patients at any time. how would this change the present health system and how will privacy issues be dealt with in that kind of environment?

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1 comment
  1. Winnie said:

    Funny you should mention this, because I had an interview this week with a company that specializes in writing health/medical complaint tracking software and they quoted this study in the process of describing their company to me.

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