Better Access to Healthcare Isn’t Translating into Better Quality of Healthcare

Healthcare reform has dominated the news the past 12 months. This year’s healthcare legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama provides healthcare to more Americans. However, the quality of that healthcare remains a challenge for consumers and healthcare providers alike.

It’s been 11 years since the publication of the federal report “To Err is Human”. Yet, the quality of healthcare has seen little improvement since that time. The non-profit educational organization, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, estimates that there are still 15 million instances of medical harm occurring each year in the United States. Of those 15 million, 200,000 deaths are attributable to medical error and hospital-acquired infections.

While the federal government has expanded access to healthcare, it has left it to the individual states to implement healthcare quality reforms. Unfortunately, few states have acted to improve healthcare quality. 23 states have no medical error detection system. Those states that do have such a program still miss medical errors, according to an ongoing investigation by Hearst newspapers.

According to the Times-Union, states which report medical errors are still failing to catch 75-97% of harmful events.
“They are very clearly missing the vast majority of events,” said Dr. Brent James, chief quality officer at Intermountain Healthcare of Utah, whose groundbreaking research helped reveal the magnitude of under counting. “The evidence of that is overwhelming.”