Texas residents who regularly receive medical care may be shocked to hear about a study that recently appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing that hospitals make more money when a patient does not receive proper care. Researchers found that when a patient ended up with complications stemming from hospital negligence, the hospital ended up taking in an average of $30,500 more than if a patient was cared for properly. While the researchers do not believe this is intentional, increased revenue creates little incentive for hospitals to improve patient care.The study looked at over 34,000 patients who underwent surgery in 2010 and found that just under 2,000 ended up with preventable complications, including blood clots and infections. Those who suffered complications had their median hospital stay quadruple to 14 days, and in many cases, insurance providers paid the hospital for the extra care.
Texas residents may have noticed that robotic surgery has spread across the U.S. in recent years. In fact, the use of robot machines has grown from approximately 112,000 surgeries in 2008 to over 360,000 in 2012. The robot surgery machines cost $1.45 million and hospitals, as a way of competing for business, have put it into their websites and advertising to attract patients. The machine, called the Da Vinci, has been rated as highly effective in certain kinds of surgeries, particularly where there is only a small space in which to operate.In recent years, however, there have been a number of reports of injuries and deaths in operations using robot surgery machines. Some cases have resulted in jury findings of medical malpractice and large awards to injured persons or their survivors. In some cases in which persons were injured or died, expert testimony questioned the use of robots, asserting, in effect, that it was not appropriate to use such complicated machinery for a simple procedure.
Texas residents are reputed to be very supportive of veterans, and the state has many veterans hospitals. However, in other locations, Veterans Affairs hospitals have come under fire for incidents of medical malpractice as well as other problems. In Mississippi, the Department of Veterans Affairs has begun steps to correct problems at one of its medical centers, including reviewing X-rays and CT scans that may have been erroneously assessed over the years. Veterans in this area are skeptical. During a recent "town hall" meeting, veterans had difficult questions for the officials about patients having to wait five hours to see a doctor even with a scheduled appointment. Poor sterilization procedures, understaffing and wrong diagnoses are all problems evident at the center. The DVA is investigating these charges.
A recent outbreak of a bacteria in Texas and the United States that are CRE resistant has created enormous concern in the medical community. This strain of bacteria has become highly resistant to powerful antibiotics, and the proportion of CRE resistant bacteria has increased from 1.4 to 4.2 percent between 2001 and 2011. Additionally, this bacteria has been found in health care facilities in 42 states, leading to concern about possible hospital negligence causing it to spread to healthy members of the population.To stop the spread of this bacteria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is requesting that the medical community put an emphasis on determining if patients have been infected. Once these patients have been identified, they can be isolated and treated appropriately. Additionally, medical devices that can increase the chances of infection, such as catheters, should be removed from patients as quickly as possible.
Medical consumers in Texas as well as throughout the nation may be interested the results of a study done on diagnosis errors by primary care physicians published in a recent issue of JAMA Internal Medicine. The study was an effort to determine what the major causes of missed diagnoses or errors in diagnosis were. While there was not one factor that stood out as the major contributor to the problem, many errors seem rooted in the basic office visit of the patient and the history taking skills of the physician. Certainly, an improper diagnosis can lead to a severe condition going untreated or even overtreatment for a condition that does not exist. These are both major areas of medical malpractice that this study is interested in helping physicians avoid. Some of the diagnostic problems were due to improper follow-up on laboratory tests or even not reading the tests correctly. Another issue found was that patients were not being referred appropriately to specialists.
In 2003, the Texas legislature passed a tort reform statute that placed a limit of $250,000 on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases. The law also changed the standard to "willful and wanton negligence" in situations where a patient received emergency care. That means that a patient essentially must establish that the doctor intentionally caused the harm. This is an extremely high standard that offers a great deal of protection to doctors. Plaintiffs also must present expert medical testimony within 120 days of filing suit.One Texas woman reported to the emergency room in 2010, citing severe pain in her leg. Despite telling doctors that she had a history of blood clots, the patient was sent home with a minor diagnosis. Three days later, the woman returned to the hospital in an ambulance, and doctors found that a serious blood clot in her leg had caused extensive tissue damage. Surgeons amputated both of the patient's legs above the knee to save her life.
The One and Only Campaign, launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, may reduce instances of hospital negligence by encouraging closer monitoring of the reuse of hospital equipment. Using syringes more than once, dipping into vials multiple times and other questionable practices have led to more than 100,000 exposures to serious infections like hepatitis and HIV over the past decade. While it might seem logical to readers in Houston to advocate for single-use syringes and vials, a group of "green" health care advocates wants to reduce medical waste by recycling certain kinds of medical equipment. They claim that if proper sterilization procedures are followed, there is no danger of infection. However, some would argue that no sterilization methods are 100 percent safe and that any recycling of medical equipment carries an inherent risk.
If you are under the assumption that your doctors will tell you everything that happens to you while in your care, perhaps you may want to rethink that notion. A recent study indicates that when hospitals make mistakes with their medicine, they are unlikely to tell the patients or their families.
A recent study considered readmission rates of acute care hospitals for children. Readmission rates are important because they can provide a clue as to whether patients are receiving quality care when being treated at a hospital, or whether the patients may more likely be the victims of medical errors or faulty medical care.
When we take our loved ones into a Texas hospital or go in ourselves, we expect that the care given will be dutiful and ample. It can be an incredibly emotional time for a family when someone close to them is hospitalized for an illness or accident, but once they are admitted, it's up to the medical staff. One woman was recently reported on due to her unfortunately eye-opening experience of watching her mother's care in a hospital cause her situation to worsen.