Scary – people die in hospitals

I recently read the following in an article about hospital care:

Statistically speaking hospitals are just about the most dangerous places to be in the United States. Three times as many people die every year due to medical errors in hospitals as die on our highways — 100,000 deaths compared to 34,000. The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that nearly 100,000 people die annually in hospitals from medical errors. Of this group, 80,000 die from hospital acquired infections, many of which can be prevented. Given the above number of admissions that means that 1 out of every 370 people admitted to a hospital dies due to medical errors. So hospitals are very dangerous places.

It would take about 200 747 airplanes to crash annually to equal 100,000 preventable deaths. Imagine the American outcry if one 747 crashed every day for 200 consecutive days in the U.S. The airlines would stand before the nation and the world in disgrace. Currently in our non-transparent health care delivery system, Americans have no way of knowing which hospitals are the most dangerous. We simply take uninformed chances with our lives at stake.

These statistics are shocking but they’re also misplaced.  We’ve all heard the statistic that air travel is safer than car travel. Statistically speaking this is true but what’s not said is as important as what is said when comparing air travel to car travel. 

No matter how many frequent flier miles you may have you undoubtedly travel in a car more than an airplane. Over the course of a lifetime you will spend many, many, many more hours in a car than an airplane, therefore your chances of being in an automobile accident are higher because your exposure is higher.  The other important aspect of the argument not mentioned is the fact that most people walk away from auto accidents, it’s less likely you will walk away from an air accident. 

When you are involved in a fender bender, you get out of your car, exchange insurance information with the other driver and then go find a body shop to fix your car.  When an airplane malfunctions at 30,000 feet, the passengers don’t walk away nor are their remains ever identified.

Hospitals are dangerous places and that’s because we are dealing with the most complex system in the world – the human body.  No two bodies are alike and no two people respond the same to every treatment.  Hospitals save and heal far more people than they injure.  Safety is a priority at most hospitals in the United States and safety is at the core of all we do at GVMH.

Let me give you an example.  GVMH has placed a strong emphasis on preventing falls and our Falls Prevention Team has been so successful at preventing falls that they are being recognized by the Missouri Center for Patient Safety for their success in reducing falls at GVMH.  To prevent medication errors, GVMH has initiated an electronic bedside medication verification process by which a scanner is used to scan a patient’s arm band and the medication administered to the patient to verify that the patient is receiving the correct dose and drug.  The process is designed to work as a fail safe and prevent avoidable medication errors.

Sure, people die in hospitals.  People come to hospitals because they are sick and as great as health care is in the United States, and the health care in the United States is better than anywhere in the world, it’s just not possible to heal everyone, nor would it be appropriate.  Every patient has the right to determine what type of life saving efforts they would like to have used should they be dying and we have the responsibility to respect those choices.

I would like to have a cup of coffee with the author of the article and ask him what life saving efforts he would choose should he have to do so.  As someone who has dealt firsthand with a family member who suffered from a terminal illness I know that there are times when the only thing a patient can control is how he or she dies.  Health care providers have a responsibility to respect the rights of the living and the dying.

About Craig Thompson

I am a young professional with two great sons, and I work in the healthcare setting. I am employed in hospital administration and serve as Chief Operating Officer at Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare in Clinton, Missouri. These are challenging and exciting times in healthcare and my blog will focus on healthcare, raising boys or being raised by boys, and living in mid America.
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One Response to Scary – people die in hospitals

  1. Megan says:

    Great Blog…Loved it! I think we do a great job focusing on and addressing quality and patient safety at GVMH and I think its great that you are making the community and staff aware of those processes.

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