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    Monday, April 26, 2010

    PHYSICIAN URGES RETURN TO MORE PERSONAL CARE

    In an op-ed for the New York Times Dr. Dena Rifkin, a physician at the University of California-San Diego, writes that since the Institute of Medicine's report on deaths caused by medical errors, "there has been tremendous focus on how many mistakes physicians and hospitals make, how much they cost and how to prevent them." She says that many hospitals reacted with a "brisk and multifaceted" response, but that "none of these interventions, however well meant, address a fundamental problem that is emerging in modern medicine: a change in focus from treating the patient toward satisfying the system."

    A close family member was recently hospitalized after nearly collapsing at home. He was promptly checked in, and an electrocardiogram was done within 15 minutes. He was given a bar-coded armband, his pain level was assessed, blood was drawn, X-rays and stress tests were performed, and he was discharged 24 hours later with a revised medication list after being offered a pneumonia vaccine and an opportunity to fill out a living will.The only problem was an utter lack of human attention. An emergency room physician admitted him to a hospital service that rapidly evaluates patients for potential heart attacks. No one noted the blood tests that suggested severe dehydration or took enough history to figure out why he might be fatigued.
    A doctor was present for a few minutes at the beginning of his stay, and fewer the next day. Even my presence, as a family member and physician, did not change the cursory attitude of the doctors and nurses we met.Yet his hospitalization met all the current standards for quality care.

    It has been 10 years since the Institute of Medicine’s seminal report on deaths caused by medical errors (numbering at least 44,000 a year). Since then, there has been tremendous focus on how many mistakes physicians and hospitals make, how much they cost and how to prevent them.

    The response at most hospitals has been brisk and multifaceted. Hospital accreditation committees now audit charts for outdated abbreviations and proper signing of notes. Electronic prescription systems are rapidly becoming the norm. Pay-for-performance interventions by insurers promise to reward those who make the grade and to refuse payment to those whose treatments cause complications like hospital-acquired infections.

    But as we bustle from one well-documented chart to the next, no one is counting whether we are still paying attention to the human beings. No one is counting whether we admit that the best source of information, the best protection from medical error, the best opportunity to make a difference — that all of these things have been here all along. The answers are with the patients, and we must remember the unquantifiable value of asking the right questions.

    She adds that medical professionals "are paying attention to the details of medical errors," yet "no one is counting whether we are still paying attention to the human beings."

    Please remember, as with all our articles we provide information, not medical advice.
    For any treatment of your own medical condition you must visit your local doctor, with or without our article[s]. These articles are not to be taken as individual medical advice.


    Deepen your understanding of "medical malpractice"... www.MedMalBook.com

    For more health info and links visit the author's web site www.hookman.com

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