Has all the patient-safety effort really gotten the industry anywhere? In the 10 years since the Institute of Medicine first said the healthcare industry was killing patients with medical errors, hospitals are collaborating more and measuring more outcomes, but there still is no definitive method of proving that care is demonstrably safer.
2009 in review: Safety gains hard to gauge
The CMS instructs hospitals to report quality data for its Hospital Compare site or risk losing reimbursement dollars, but miscommunications with the system leads more than 60 hospitals to lose payments.
Hospitals striving to improve the patient experience and boost satisfaction are seeing little impact on their bottom line. Profitability does not correlate with happy patients.
The Joint Commission launches its new Center for Transforming Healthcare in September. That news comes fast on the heels of the commission's sentinel-event alert that directly tied leadership to medical errors, and called for more accountability among senior executives to reduce harm in hospitals. The Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based center represents the commission's entrance into a quality arena filled with other organizations that have been studying various safety initiatives for some time.
California hospitals report a spate of radiation overdoses to patients receiving CT scans. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles says about 260 patients were affected and some received up to eight times the normal dose because of a computer error. And at Mad River Community Hospital in Arcata, a technician loses her license after conducting a CT scan on a toddler for more than an hour in a procedure that should have lasted two or three minutes. The state fines the hospital $25,000. By year's end, more reports of excessive radiation prompt the Food and Drug administration to recommend that facilities, radiologists and technicians take added steps to ensure patient safety.
The state fines Rhode Island Hospital in Providence $150,000 and takes the extraordinary step of ordering it to install video cameras in all operating rooms after the institution's fifth wrong-site surgery since 2007.
Radiologists and women's health advocates are highly critical of new breast-cancer screening recommendations issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in November, suggesting that most women delay regular mammography screenings until age 50, and that they then only be tested every two years. Professional medical groups such as the American College of Radiology and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists denounce the recommendations and advised women to continue following current screening recommendations. The controversy leads both the Senate and House to set up hearings on the recommendations and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to say the recommendations would not affect Medicare's mammogram reimbursement.
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