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Obama Administration Wants Patients To Report Physicians To The Feds

In another example of government over-reach, the NYT describes how the Obama administration is enlisting the help of patients to report physicians (whom they believe may have made a medical error), directly to the federal government. While there are systems already in place for such reports at the local hospital level, apparently the “under reporting of medical errors” has triggered AHRQ to pilot a program in which questionnaires are sent to patients to ferret out potential examples of errors caused by the following:

* “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.”

So if a patient determines, for example, that a physician did not spend enough time with them, and they believe that resulted in a medical error (whatever that might be), they can/should report the physician to the federal government. Wow. One physician explains the potential hazards of such a process:

Dr. Kevin J. Bozic, the chairman of the Council on Research and Quality at the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, said it was important to match the patients’ reports with information in medical records.

“Patients’ perceptions and experience of care are very important in assessing the overall success of medical treatments,” Dr. Bozic said. “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.”

I believe that reporting medical errors is critical in the process of quality improvement, but that is most efficiently handled at the hospital level. There is no need to involve the federal government at the earliest stages of investigation, and the amount of bureaucracy required to support such an effort boggles the mind.

In the past when I encountered medical errors in the hospital setting, I found successful ways to report the incidents to the local administration. The result was a rapid correction of the problems and new processes put in place to ensure that it didn’t happen again. This is how medical errors should be reported and resolved. Soliciting patients for accounts of subtle lapses in social graces by their healthcare providers, and then reporting them to the government for it, is nothing short of Big-Brother creepy.


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2 Responses to “Obama Administration Wants Patients To Report Physicians To The Feds”

  1. Joe Ketcherside MD says:

    Sorry, but we have tried letting the hospitals and doctors manage error for the last 100 years and it’s made little progress. Medicine is pretty much the only organization in modern society that objects to asking its customers for feedback about their care. This isn’t government over-reach. It’s a natural reaction to medicine’s failure to address error and quality of care issues successfully themselves.

    Oh, I know there’s been numerous initiatives by hospital administrators since the IOM report over a decade ago. But I also know that when I talk with my colleagues in the clinics there’s not a one of them who believes a word of it, nor who has any interest in change. This is a desperately needed effort to provide a channel for patients to speak out when they have no other option.

    If you have any doubts, read A Never Event by Evelyn McKnight. It’s the story of the largest Hep C outbreak in US history, all caused by poor technique in a chemo center and then ignored by every person in authority at the related hospital. Patients and staff complained about the precise errors for months, but no one would intervene. There is no better proof of the need of a system like this than the many identical stories still happening.

  2. Shirley Desmond says:

    You are so wrong. My daughter was killed at a Mayo Clinic hospital. They will not look at my concerns as they are too worried about getting sued. I am a medical professional, and I do understand what they did wrong. They continue to lie and cover up the horrific facts . I have discovered case after case at this same hospital. I hear the same response from every family. There is no where to report and they are getting away with murder. What hospital are you getting such wonderful results in open communication.? I know a lot of people that would go there. All you have to do is google Dangerous Hospitals, and you will see I am not the only one that is saying this. It is a huge problem. I am a little suspicous of this, because President Obama closed off accessing the files on bad doctors. U.S. data on bad doctors closed to the public. This was an article by Alex Johnson MSNBC.com If they do want to open their findings to the public, what good will it do for us to report? NN

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