Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Medical Mistakes: The Patient as "Whistleblower" Reporting to the Government

The United States federal government in an attempt to prevent medical mistakes is considering a pilot program which will analyze these mistakes by doctors, pharmacists and hospitals. Medical mistakes not only can unnecessarily harm patients but end up costing everyone including the government money.  The interesting part of the program is that it  will be the patient (or, I suppose, also the patient's family) who will be the "whistleblowers" and notify the government of a suspected mistake.  To get an idea about the program read about it in a recent article in the  New York Times from which a few extracts follow. 
  For each incident, the government wants to know “what happened; details of the event; when, where, whether there was harm; the type of harm; contributing factors; and whether the patient reported the event and to whom.”The questionnaire asks why the mistake happened and lists possible reasons:¶ “A doctor, nurse or other health care provider did not communicate well with the patient or the patient’s family.”¶ “A health care provider didn’t respect the patient’s race, language or culture.”¶ “A health care provider didn’t seem to care about the patient.”¶ “A health care provider was too busy.”¶ “A health care provider didn’t spend enough time with the patient.”¶ “Health care providers failed to work together.”¶ “Health care providers were not aware of care received someplace else.”A caution as noted in the article from an official of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons:“However, patients may mischaracterize an outcome as an adverse event or complication because they lack specific medical knowledge.“For instance, a patient may say, ‘I had an infection after surgery’ because the wound was red. But most red wounds are not infected. Or a patient says, ‘My hip dislocated’ because it made a popping sound. But that’s a normal sensation after hip replacement surgery.” [Thus] it was important to match the patients’ reports with information in medical records.


What do you think about you becoming the "whistleblower" to notify the government when you suspect your doctor made a mistake?  ..Maurice.

Graphic: From Google Images and modified by me with ArtRage