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Medicare Study Explores Patient Safety, Though Some Question Data

As a result of the 2010 federal health care law, Medicare has begun studying hospitals and patient safety across the country. The idea behind the review is to identify hospitals with patient-safety problems in an effort to encourage improvement by linking Medicare reimbursements to improved safety records. Increased patient safety may lead to a downturn in the need for medical malpractice suits.

Medicare is currently examining readmission and mortality rates, complications after surgery and how closely hospitals adhere to basic guidelines for care. The results so-far have shown that some of the countries best teaching hospitals, including area hospitals like the University of Chicago Medical Center and the University of Illinois Hospital, are 10 times more likely to experience serious patient complications than other hospitals.

Process Concerns

Despite overwhelming perception as some of the best hospitals in the country, these hospitals have been negatively highlighted in the Medicare review. Many in the medical community are questioning the accuracy of the report and are pointing out, what they believe to be, flaws in the process.

Though these hospitals may have higher complication rates, they also often take on the more challenging cases with the sickest patients. In addition, though serious adverse patient events may occur more often at teaching hospitals, this may be because testing is more rigorous, advanced and experimental at such a facility.

Unfortunately, hospital errors are not uncommon. Patient safety issues can exist at the most highly acclaimed institutions, just as they can arise at a small rural institution. Regardless of whether or not there are flaws in the Medicare review data, it serves as an important reminder that patient safety is a critical issue that must be on everyone's radar.

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