Monday, March 4, 2013

Patient Safety Awareness Week - What's your point?

Patient Safety Awareness Week; Where is it?

In just one hour on the radio today I heard commercials for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease and more sickness and ailments than I can remember.  Sometimes these commercials are suggesting medication, sometimes it’s just to raise awareness.  Either way, it works. 
As we are now upon Patient Safety Awareness Week again this year, not a word again to the public about patient safety.  Nothing, Nodda, Zip!
For each of the conditions spoken about on commercials, patients need to be made aware of the possibility that the medication that they receive at the pharmacist can be for someone else if they don’t check the label. There are 1.5 million peopleinjured by medication errors each year.  When diagnosed with a new illness, the patient needs to be sure any new medication works with their other medications.  They can go for a second opinion because according to Dr. Mark Graber, founder of Society to Reduce Diagnosis Errors in Medicine, a New York Times article (Oct 2012) the average emergency room physician during his/her career will send home 17 patients who will die an avoidable death within 7 days due to misdiagnosis.
According to The Joint Commission there are still over 2,000 wrong site surgeries each year.  This can be avoided if the public knows how important it is to mark the site of surgery.  That means breast cancer patients or diabetic patients having surgery.
Patients hospitalized with heart disease should know that according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) one out of every 20 patients will contract a hospital acquired infection and 99,000 peoplewill die each year.
The outcry this week is about the cost of Medicare or government cutbacks.  But who is paying for the care of those Medicare patients who have the second and corrected surgery, are treated after a medication error or when the patient falls in the hospital adding another few thousand dollars to the hospital bill?  If Medicare no longer pays because they refuse now for hospital errors, at some point we are absorbing the cost either financially or with the risk of our safety because hospitals will have to cut back.
There is the  patient with high blood pressure who doesn’t understand the doctor’s instructions and takes his medication incorrectly, doesn’t keep a follow up appointment or doesn’t share all his symptoms so something may be missed.  These problems could easily be avoided if the patient was encouraged through a patient safety campaign to bring a family member or friend with him to the doctor and help take notes and ask questions.
What about those 99,000 patients who died last year from a hospital acquired infection?  Was their life insurance paid out long before it need be?  We know they are no longer paying into their insurance policies.  Isn’t that another economic loss?  Or, were there 1.7 million lost work days because that’s how many people were said to suffer from a hospital acquired infection each year according to the CDC.
So, we try to get a presidential proclamation again this year.  We visit Senator Charles Schumer’s (NY) office, give them the statistics and nothing.  All we want to do is raise awareness.    Patient Safety Awareness Week is an opportunity to celebrate patient safety and all that is being done.  The media doesn’t cover it, the news doesn’t cover it, the politicians don’t cover it, but when the next wrong site surgery happens and the next misdiagnosis happens and they make the news,  I will just sit back and say “What’s your point”?

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