Friday, May 13, 2016

Here Is The Scale Of The Opportunity For Health IT To Make A Difference And Heap Sort Out This Difficult Problem.

This appeared a few days ago and attracted a lot of comment:

Medical Error Is Third Leading Cause of Death in US

Marcia Frellick
May 03, 2016
Medical error is the third leading cause of death in the United States, after heart disease and cancer, according to findings published today in BMJ.
As such, medical errors should be a top priority for research and resources, say authors Martin Makary, MD, MPH, professor of surgery, and research fellow Michael Daniel, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.
But accurate, transparent information about errors is not captured on death certificates, which are the documents the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses for ranking causes of death and setting health priorities. Death certificates depend on International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes for cause of death, so causes such as human and system errors are not recorded on them.
And it's not just the US. According to the World Health Organization, 117 countries code their mortality statistics using the ICD system as the primary health status indicator.
The authors call for better reporting to help capture the scale of the problem and create strategies for reducing it.
Cancer and Heart Disease Get the Attention
"Top-ranked causes of death as reported by the CDC inform our country's research funding and public health priorities," Dr Makary said in an university press release. "Right now, cancer and heart disease get a ton of attention, but since medical errors don't appear on the list, the problem doesn't get the funding and attention it deserves."
He adds: "Incidence rates for deaths directly attributable to medical care gone awry haven't been recognized in any standardized method for collecting national statistics. The medical coding system was designed to maximize billing for physician services, not to collect national health statistics, as it is currently being used."
The researchers examined four studies that analyzed medical death rate data from 2000 to 2008. Then, using hospital admission rates from 2013, they extrapolated that, based on 35,416,020 hospitalizations, 251,454 deaths stemmed from a medical error.
That number of deaths translates to 9.5% of all deaths each year in the US — and puts medical error above the previous third-leading cause, respiratory disease.
Lots more here (free registration)
The scale of these numbers is terrifying. If quality health IT with good decision support can cut this toll by even 10% it would be fantastic!
I hope we can get a better handle on the scale of the issue both here and in the US and then develop serious plans to make a difference and give up on all the mealy mouthed nonsense we see from so many of our leaders who think it is all too hard. We know technology can make a difference - it just needs to be more widely used among other things. I am dreaming I guess.

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