Posted on April 11, 2011


I feel like Nikki Fink. (For all you medical industry readers, Nikki Fink is a news source for the entertainment industry.) For some time now, patient advocates have been doing the math and coming up with numbers far more ominous than the healthcare industry, their “official watchdogs” or the federal government will admit. Now comes this report from NPR proving everything we’ve been saying. Thanks, by the way, to Steve Olson for the heads up on this one; I didn’t have to sort through my daily alerts to find it. Steve is head of the regional film alliance, thus the Nikki Fink reference.

Okay, back to the news. NPR sites a new report published in Health Affairs (a subscription site) covering the frequency of adverse events in hospitals. I have been focused on hospital care for three years now, because I believe that is where the majority of “hidden errors” take place – and this report confirms that. Briefly, it confirms:

1 in 3 people who enter a hospital fall victim to some sort of adverse event – a mistake, an infection, an injury.

90% of all those events are never reported. Remember, no report (no paper trail) means the event never happened.

The researchers who conducted this report studied almost 800 patients and found 354 adverse events had occurred in that group. Curious, they took their records to 2 “official” sources for analysis. The AHRQ found only 34 events in that same group. The hospitals claimed to find only 4.

This report is critical of the healthcare industry itself, the government, policymakers from both parties, and  just about everyone involved in concealing this public health menace. What are we to conclude? First, healthcare in the United States of America – particularly hospital care – is a major threat to public health. Second, the notion that the healthcare industry has the patient’s best interest at heart and should therefore be allowed to police itself is absurd.

Its time we stopped treating the industry as some sort of benevolent but bumbling angel of mercy with a heart of gold. At best it is Ferengi in nature. Worse? You don’t want to go there. I’ll have more thoughts on how we, as advocates, should be approaching this industry later this week.