The first crucial step in solving any problem is to correctly identify what that problem actually is. In medicine, for instance, a patient cannot be correctly treated until the doctor examines him and comes up with the correct diagnosis to explain his symptoms. An incorrect diagnosis could not only lead to an incorrect course of treatment, it could also allow the patient's condition to worsen.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to its website, this agency is tasked with improving the quality, effectiveness, safety and efficiency of the American healthcare system. As part of that mission, the AHRQ regularly releases reports on issues affecting patient safety. Many hospitals and safety experts use these reports as inspiration for improving patient outcomes and refining patient safety practices.
Recent studies indicate that when individuals are already burdened with overwhelming medical bills, they are less likely to seek necessary medical care that they require presently. It can be very difficult to bring oneself to seek out additional overpriced treatment when one is already overcome by medical debt. This is just one way that overpriced medical care can directly harm patients.
When a patient brings health-related concerns to his or her physician, there is a unique trust present in that interaction. The patient trusts that the physician will exercise his or her expertise in such a way that any questions will either be properly answered or referred to a specialist who can answer them. When physicians fail to exercise their expertise in accordance with professional standards of care and patients suffer from those physicians' failure to diagnose their conditions, trust between patients and their doctors can shatter.
The media has recently reported on numerous cases of both accidental and intentional prescription overdose in which the victims' families blame the prescribing physician. Some of these cases have merit. After all, actionable medical malpractice cases arise when physicians and other healthcare providers fail to treat patients in accordance with certain standards of care. If a physician prescribes medications negligently, recklessly or in accidental error, he or she may generally be held liable for harm done to the patient taking the prescribed medication.
Unfortunately, it sometimes takes the shock of tragedy to inspire reform. This is as true in medicine as it is in politics. In one recent case, the misdiagnosis and death of young boy named Rory has inspired new safety measures designed to prevent Rory's story from happening to any more patients.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta has become a household name in the U.S. as the friendly physician on television who educates us about a wide range of medical topics. He is largely respected by the public and seen as an authoritative, yet approachable, professional figure.
Patient safety is a critical issue for the medical community and patients themselves. Many patient safety advocates believe more should be done to protect patients from preventable medical errors. To that end, some advocates have promoted the idea of creating an entity for the medical community that would be similar to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigates transportation accidents and initiates preventative actions in the aviation industry.
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.
If you have ever attempted to transfer your medical records from one health care provider to another you know that it often requires a significant amount of time and paperwork. As health systems in the U.S. attempt to move into the 21st century by shifting to electronic medical records, questions are being raised about the idea of offering all individuals universal patient identifiers (UPIs).