Uncovering the Dark Side of Medical Errors

“In no U.S. state can patients find out what a surgeon’s rate of complications is, how many mistakes a hospital makes, how many avoidable deaths it has or almost anything else about a provider’s record of care,” writes Sharon Begley of Reuters. One doctor who has witnessed this “dark side” and decided to do something about it is Dr. Marty Makary who has published a new book entitled, “Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care.” The book is referenced in a previous blog post about the problem of medical errors.
Given this lack of transparency and accountability, patients are often left to fend for themselves in choosing a healthcare provider. They have to rely on anecdotal evidence in their choices such as the personality of the doctor and his degrees and certifications. Yet, this doesn’t tell the patient about his practice and his outcomes.
According to the Reuters report, “Makary notes several models of transparency that have shown promise. New York, Oregon and California require hospitals to report death rates from heart bypass surgery, adjusted for how sick patients were and other factors to make the comparisons fair.
Transparency has benefited patients. After New York made its data public in 1989, hospitals scrambled to improve, and death rates from heart surgery fell 41 percent in four years.
Vitals.com, a doctor-reviews site launched in 2008, recently began incorporating outcomes for cancer and orthopedic surgery from a number of large hospitals into its ratings, said chief executive and co-founder Mitch Rothschild.
“Individual facilities recognize that if they don’t weed out bad practitioners, they’ll get creamed as Medicare starts penalizing hospitals for poor performance, so they collect these metrics and share them with us,” he said.”