Life Expectancy and Our Healthcare System

Posted on March 29, 2011


A couple of interesting and ironic news items came across my desk last week. This first report, posted on the CIA website, is a comparative ranking of life expectancy numbers by country. The USA, for all its might and wealth, ranked miserably. I’m not telling you where we rank; I’d like you to see for yourself. Hint: we’re not in the Top 10, not even the Top 25.

The second article comes from Fierce Healthcare and is an overview of a new survey conducted by the AHRQ. The subject: Patient Safety. Who did they survey? Hospitals. Results: Hospitals give themselves high marks for their patient safety efforts. Amazingly, more than half of those who responded report there were no patient safety events in their hospital in the past 12 months. Not one event. Zero. Nobody died. Everyone’s fine.

Reality check: In the past year the OIG, CDC and Sepsis Alliance have released evidence that more than 376,000 preventable deaths and millions of senseless injuries take place every year in our nation’s healthcare system.  So, what are we to conclude about those healthcare professionals who took the AHRQ survey? Are they delusional? Lying? Either way, there is a massive disconnect with those providing care (or those tasked with spinning their hospital’s image) and real world results.

I wonder where the US would rank in the Longevity Survey if we stopped the wholesale killing and maiming of patients? Seems to me that all these premature deaths have to have an effect on the median age of our population. You just can’t kill and disable millions of people  – year in and year out – without dragging down the strength and productivity of an entire nation.

Depending on which survey you reference, preventable medical harm is  now the 2nd or 3rd leading cause of death in the United States of America. That a national disgrace, and a fact that the respondents of the AHRQ survey are unwilling to acknowledge.