Medical Bunglings!

WASHINGTON (UPI) – One in three U.S. doctors will see medical mistakes or inferior health care delivery frequently or occasionally, according to a national survey released Tuesday.

More than half of 1,200 physicians, nurses and senior hospital executives questioned said they saw health care in the United States as being “not very good,” and four out of five said they believed fundamental changes were needed if patients are to receive quality medical treatment.

“Misuse, underuse and overuse of health care services – poor quality services – result in years of life lost, years spent with major or minor impairments, pain and suffering,” said Dr. Lewis Sandy, executive vice president of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the survey.

Concerns about patient safety are rising as health care providers and patient advocacy groups call on Congress to establish quality-of-care guidelines and incentives and address a growing nursing shortage at the nation’s hospitals.

They warn the situation will deteriorate further unless steps are taken quickly to ease nursing workloads and to ensure medical decisions are based more on a patient’s medical needs, rather than cost.

The foundation has launched $20.9 million grant program, the Pursuing Perfection Initiative, to find ways to reduce errors and improve health care delivery. It will be administered by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a Boston not-for-profit organization, which will look to hospitals and physician organizations for novel ways to improve patient care outcomes from a system-based perspective.

Dr. Donald Berwick, IHI president and chief executive officer, said raising the quality of care for patients was an achievable goal, especially when almost one-third of responding providers said they would become leaders on better health care at their institutions.

“We are confidant that participants will provide us with surprising and thrilling examples of improvement not generally thought possible in health care,” Berwick told reporters. “While the bad news is that errors are common and quality is doubted, the good news is that there is a strong cadre of providers out there who believe we can raise the bar for health care performance.”

David Richardson, executive vice president of Wirthlin Worldwide, which conducted the poll, said the purpose of the survey, in addition to seeing how providers view the system, also was to gauge whether the concept of pursuing “perfection” in health care was possible.

“We think that it’s significant that when we asked respondents who should be most accountable for affecting change and managing quality of care improvements, four out of five respondents pointed to organizations, such as hospitals and physician groups,” he said. “It is clear from their responses, though, that pursuing perfection, though difficult, is not insurmountable.”

Sandy explained the new initiative will provide planning grants to 12 physician and hospital organizations to design business plans to help the achieve “dramatic improvements” in the quality of care they provide.

Further funding will be provided to six groups to implement their ideas, with their plans posted on the Internet so other hospitals and health care organizations can incorporate the strategies.

© 2001 by United Press International.
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Published on, May 11, 2001. Embedded links may no longer be active (Ed. 01.02.11)

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