Get ready for Medical Errors Part II. Healthcare executives who thought that last year's Institute of Medicine report on the dubious quality of hospital care was a one-shot shock are in for another rude awakening.
The upcoming sequel to last December's IOM blockbuster, which estimated that up to 98,000 hospitalized Americans die each year because of medical errors, is expected to blast the organizational practices of many hospitals.
This wholesale indictment of the treatment of hospital patients should touch off a firestorm of political attention and force providers to improve the processes in place at their institutions.
Despite the questionable assertions made in the first report, most hospital executives and trade associations took heed. But the momentum for action slowed as the healthcare spotlight focused on election campaigns, Medicare drug benefits, provider reimbursement and patient rights.
The new cast of characters in Washington is bound to home in on healthcare quality improvement. Watch for a flurry of headlines, fiery speeches and committee hearings designed to probe the inner workings of hospitals.
Stringent government regulation can be averted only if providers offer serious improvement plans. Hospital administrators can take the first step by correcting obvious organizational flaws in recordkeeping, order entry and transportation. Hospital managers should discuss shortcomings and solutions.
Providers also need to invest in products and services with a track record of improving efficiency and reducing medical errors. They also should support efforts by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and others to monitor and evaluate patient safety.
The focus on quality and error reduction must become an essential part of the healthcare business model.