The American Hospital Association is sending member hospitals and health systems a nine-minute video about improving medication safety. Dubbed "Beyond Blame," the video comes with a 30-page booklet featuring examples of how hospitals have decreased medication errors, which account for a significant portion of the estimated 98,000 fatal medical errors occurring annually. The booklet was produced by the National Coalition on Health Care and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
State and regional systems developed to optimize trauma care are effective only once they have been in place at least 10 years, according to a study in the April 19 Journal of the American Medical Association that examined mortality rates of car-crash victims. The study was conducted between 1979 and 1995. It said states with organized trauma systems in place for 15 years had automobile accident mortality rates 8% lower than states without such systems.
New York managed-care plans are more likely to send their heart bypass surgery patients to hospitals with higher mortality rates than are traditional fee-for-service insurers, according to a study published in the April 19 Journal of the American Medical Association. Despite the availability of data comparing the mortality rates of area hospitals, New York managed-care plans appear to ignore such information when making contracting decisions, the study said.
Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, has sent a letter to Jane Henney, M.D., commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, saying that Propulsid, a heartburn drug, is unsafe. In the April 11 letter, Public Citizen says 23 Americans died between Jan. 1 and March 28 because of heart problems associated with Propulsid. Public Citizen warned that unless the FDA forces maker Johnson & Johnson to quickly take the drug off the market, "a large number of further preventable deaths are certain to occur."
Last year 6,012 people died while awaiting organ transplants, up 19% from 1998, according to a report released late last month by the United Network for Organ Sharing. Still, the number of living organ donors continues to rise. It hit 4,627 in 1999, a 7% increase. The rate of living liver donors tripled. Overall organ transplants rose 3% to 21,990. The number of heart transplants declined to 2,185, the lowest since 1992. At the end of 1999, 67,755 patients were waiting for new organs.
The Institute for Safe Medication Practices last month released a 12-page white paper calling for an end to handwritten prescriptions by 2003. The paper urges providers to start using new technology, including hand-held computers, to help prevent medication errors that can result when people can't decipher handwritten prescriptions. The paper is the first in a series discussing medication-error prevention.